Fernandina Beach City Commissioner Chip Ross (aka The Fernandina Beach Budget Bully) mocks city property-owning taxpayers who appeal for tax relief by demanding to know what “essential and critical city services” they would like sacrificed in order to satisfy their pleas.
Apparently City Manager Dale Martin has appointed Ross official city spokesperson and budgetary point man, or Ross has assumed that role on his own without Martin or anyone else at city hall challenging him. I haven’t heard anyone demur or Martin say otherwise. Have you?
In a recent note to the local Common Sense group of concerned taxpayers, me, and others who have questioned the escalating tax burden, Ross responded saying: “If taxpayers want to reduce their City taxes back to the roll-back rate, then the City will need to reduce or eliminate services. Presently the City spends approximately 52% of its budget on public safety (police, fire, EMS) and 8% on roads. In the midst of a pandemic, decreasing spending in these departments would likely not be a prudent strategy,” he says.
He went on to list a variety of programs he says he is “….not advocating eliminating or reducing” including: funds for non-profits including the Amelia Island Museum; Youth Programs; the Aquatics Programs; the Atlantic Recreation Center, Peck Center and MLK Center; maintenance to the Library; closing parks and ending their maintenance; maintenance of other recreational services; maintenance of the Historic Downtown. He also copied all these groups and grant recipients on his note.
Out of the other side of his mouth he said: “However, with an open mind, I listen to all suggestions for providing funding to all of the above services and programs while reducing $1.5 million dollars of revenue required by the roll-back rate.”
Folks aren’t buying this gasbag’s absurd double-talking bunkum any more. A number of residents have taken him to task including members of the local watchdog group Common Sense, former City Comptroller Patti Clifford, and others.
For the past three months blowhard Ross has sent emails to those questioning the higher taxes saying he can’t do anything about the increased spending, otherwise the city will collapse and orphans will starve.
Ross pooh-poohed Common Sense’s questioning the city’s plan to move fire station #2 from the high-density area of commercial and residential buildings (hotels, restaurants, multi residential units) along the ocean to a low-density area near the airport. Residents responded asking: What is wrong with the current station? Why is it being moved to the edge of town, away from high density? What justifies the cost? The Commission and Ross answered by voting to award the city’s pet contractor Passero another huge fee to finish the questionable project.
What was Ross’s response? “I wish you had considered the moral obligation to support our firefighters who put their lives on the line.” He copied the Fire Chief, Police Chief, and the Pope.
He constantly badgers his questioning critics by asking if they are pushing to cut the Police Department budget and then copies Chief James Hurley on the correspondence. Intimidating? Does it put Chief Hurley in an awkward position? What do you think?
On a recent go-around he listed all do-gooder grant recipients saying, “This is where the cuts would come.” Nowhere did he address assertions that headcount has become bloated or the city spends too much on new vehicles. Did he suggest that maybe the city put some more miles on the cars or pay some employees a gas allowance to drive their own? Nope!
When City Manager Martin was asked by Common Sense where he’d cut, if pushed by the commissioners, did he say he’d freeze hiring or otherwise tame runaway costs at city hall? No! He said he’d have to “delay critical repairs at the Atlantic Center and Peck Center if that’s what you want.”
Martin and his mouthpiece Ross have yet to produce a single metric that proves their increased spending has improved public services. From a citizen’s perspective it’s the same now as it was in 2016. Where’s the improvement? Good luck trying to get a straight answer from Tweedle dee Martin or Tweedle dee Ross.
Nobody calls out Ross more accurately and colorfully than local investor, entrepreneur, lawyer, and businessman Pat Keogh, who says Ross’s latest screed is part of him playing “an endless game of rope-a-dope all under the guise of his righteous sanctimony.”
Keogh, who has a number of real estate holdings in the city limits, is a fervent advocate of dissolving the city into the County and has repeatedly cited the city’s Utility Department as an example of the city’s malfeasance saying: “The misuse of the formerly investor-owned water utility is used to annex reluctant county residences and businesses into the city snare with a 30% increase in the owner’s real estate taxes. Russia’s Putin uses tanks to annex, COFB uses access to water.”
Keogh says it is important to remember that residents of COFB are also residents of the county. “It does not work the other way. If COFB residents are abused by the city government they should be able to seek recourse from their county reps and government if their interests are ignored by the city.”
Others were equally vocal in their opposition to Martin’s and Ross’s latest double-talking scenario.
City Resident Ron Barone penned an articulate and blunt response to the pompous, self-righteous Commissioner Ross expressing some of the same sentiments as Keogh saying:
“It is somewhat humorous that you ask where the cuts should come from and list only those services that typically pull at the heartstrings of most citizens. We often see this with school budgets when they threaten the athletic programs and other after school activities (including driver’s education).
“It is as if you want us to believe that the rest of the spending is as efficient as it can possibly be and that there is no room whatsoever for improvement in the way money is spent on existing programs, without cutting services. As a businessman, I know there is always room to cut and improve. The Japanese call it Kaisen (continuous improvement). All I have seen in the past five years is adding more people/dollars to the City payroll and receiving the same (or sometimes less) service.
“Moreover, I will answer your question as to where the spending cuts should come from: Has the commission ever considered outsourcing PUBLIC SAFETY to the County or to others? I pay for both the City and the County for the same public safety service. Do I get twice the safety as a result? No! There are other areas where the City should consider outsourcing, such as public works (roads, etc.). Why must we pay for the same services twice, if we do not get twice the service?”
Frank Quigley, a retired media executive and a founder of Common Sense, issued the following public letter to Ross:
“Commissioner Ross this is yet another example of one of your false equivalency strawman scenarios in that if those charitable gifts are questioned then the questioner would club baby seals.
“Nowhere in any of the questions you’ve posed do you address general staff headcount, or levels of purchasing – outside of the public safety departments. Our City Manager almost always defaults to saying he would take cuts out of the Capital Budget, depriving necessary repairs & maintenance, another false equivalence argument. Headcount is up over the past five years, as is spending by the City, generally. And taxes have gone up at a rate higher than city population growth.
“Again, what are the metrics to show that this money is needed, or well-spent? Have public safety response times improved measurably? Has the zoning department shown measurable improvement in response and quality? Have building permits been granted faster and with a higher level of service? Has the sanitation department improved its level of service in a measurable manner? Etc.
“Public services should of course be maintained at very good levels and the idea of coordinating with the county or even creating special authorities for fire & safety and a whole other host of government services is a concept which time has come to address.
“Can the services listed, and contributions be pared? I would ask those that you have copied – as you often do in these cases – to offer up how they may be able to trim their spending. This is not an unfair request.
The COVID crisis is surging in Florida and seeing a spike locally. The economic impact is unknown and potentially devastating. I have two adult daughters who work, locally, in public-service organizations. The financial stress they face is real – these are working class people who deserve the biggest break in their taxes from both the City and Nassau County.”
Former Fernandina Beach Comptroller and Finance Director Patti Clifford, a lady who knows more than most about how the municipality handles its money, echoed the city’s critics saying a tax increase is indeed coming unless measures are taken. In a letter to the local media Ms. Clifford says: “Another tax increase is in the works for city residents and businesses. Last year at a budget workshop, I spoke out about the double whammy tax increase – the .5 mill for conservation on top of an 11% increase over the rollback rate for the “base” millage rate.”
She adds that, “If the millage rate “holds” at 5.8553, it will be a 10.2% increase over the rollback rate. Are you getting a 10.2% raise?” She asks, “What specific increases in services did we get for the additional 20 full time staffers in the General Fund?” She asks if employees can decrease in FY 2020/2021, a hiring freeze can be imposed, or can the city do with fewer vehicles? Are there capital projects that can be eliminated from the Five-Year Capital Improvement Plan? Are there other sources of revenue the General Fund can generate and take some of the tax burden off residents and our businesses?”
It’s sad that the local print and online media are conspicuously absent in this discussion.
Are you as fed up with the twaddle spouted by City Manager Martin and his puppet Ross while the other commissioners sit like dummies? Then email or call the City Manager and the Commissioners and let them know how you feel, that is unless you enjoy tossing your money at these twits. Call Ross at 904/394-0220 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Call Dale Martin at 904/310-3100 or email him at email@example.com.
The Lights Are On But…. John Martin, who is running for Nassau County Commissioner District One, issued a press release earlier this week saying that his opponent and the current District 1 incumbent, Danny Leeper, doesn’t live in that district. Mr. Martin says that’s a violation of Florida law since under the state’s constitution the candidate must reside in the district at the time of the election and throughout their term. In the release Mr. Martin says Mr. Leeper moved out of the district two years into his term. Then it gets really interesting. According to the press release a private investigator surveilled Mr. Leeper and reported that Mr. Leeper doesn’t live at his District 1 address, but at an address in District 2. The release goes on to state that this is all well known by Commissioner Steve Kelly who discussed the address with County Attorney Mike Mullen, whose ex-wife is married to Commissioner Leeper. Mr. Mullin’s children by that marriage also live in the District 2 home as well says the release. Also Nassau County Sheriff Bill Leeper is Commissioner Danny Leeper’s brother.
Commissioner Leeper responded to my inquiry saying: “As of today, I am not aware of any investigation by former Commissioner Steve Kelley or County Attorney Mike Mullin. Florida Statutes and Election Laws are very clear. I do live in District 1 and have maintained my residency in District 1 for over 36 years. I have owned multiple properties over the years, some here and some in other areas. I have another property in Fernandina Beach we are renovating to sell and it is not my residency. The timing of this question over my residency is suspect, with 30 days or so before the election, considering I have maintained my residency in my District for over 36 years.”
No matter where they reside I bet the conversation during Thanksgiving dinner in the Mullin and Leeper family households is interesting.
If You Think It’s Bad Now, Just Wait! Cities and counties, particularly, Fernandina Beach, need to cut their budgets, not raise taxes. Mostly they need to end pensions for government workers and install 401K programs, and eliminate the lifetime coverage. Fernandina Beach officials never mention the pension mess we’re in here. Ask about it and they respond saying: “The auditors say everything is fine.” It isn’t. It’s ranked one of the worst in the state. It is not the role of taxpayers to bail out bad fiscal management. There will probably be a huge battle shortly about bailing out these losers at Fernandina Beach city hall that have no pension or budget discipline. Look what happened when the clueless commissioners and city manager thought FEMA would bail them out – a $12 million debt burden for local property owners. It will get worse. Remember that when you vote.
Shades of Les Misérables: According to world-renowned sociologist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), rioters and looters are only breaking into stores to get bread to feed their children. Since they probably don’t frequent Tiffany’s, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Gucci very often they were probably unaware that those stores don’t sell bread.
“So why is this uptick in crime happening?” Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez asked. “Well, let’s think about it. Do we think this has to do with the fact there’s record unemployment in the United States right now? The fact that people are at a level of economic desperation that we have not seen since the Great Recession. Maybe this has to do with the fact that people aren’t paying their rent and are scared to pay their rent, and so they go out and they need to feed their child and they don’t have money so you maybe have to, they’re put in a position where they feel like they either need to shoplift some bread or go hungry that night.”
AOC is singlehandedly responsible for chasing thousands of well-paying jobs out of her district when Amazon backed off from putting its second headquarters facility in her constituents neighborhood because she told them they weren’t welcome.
This loon is a dangerously stupid human being who enjoys nothing more than being sniffed by the lecherous bumbling Joe Biden.
Sniffing Out The Nitwits: The following statement fills most Americans with pride: “We are the country of Andrew Jackson, Ulysses S. Grant and Frederick Douglas. We are the land of Wild Bill Hickock and Buffalo Bill Cody. We are the nation that gave rise to the Wright Brothers, the Tuskegee Airmen, Harriet Tubman, Clara Barton, Jesse Owens, George Patton – General George Patton – the great Louis Armstrong, Alan Shepard, Elvis Presley, and Muhammad Ali. And only America could have produced them all. No other place.”
When I sent it to my Democrat friends and acquaintances they applauded, that is until they heard that it was made by President Trump during his Mt. Rushmore speech July 6. Then they run around with their hair on fire screaming it was a political speech, heinously offensive and should never have been given at Mt. Rushmore, a dreadful place.
CNN called Trump’s speech there “a celebration of white supremacy” saying “Trump will stand before two former slave owners on land wrestled away from Native Americans.”
Oh, these twits have short memories and are so dim. For example:
- In 1996, when Bill Clinton visited during his re-election campaign, ABC news called it a place where American ingenuity and American creativity came together and formed an amazing American accomplishment.
- In 2008, when Barrack Obama campaigned there, CNN called Mt Rushmore a majestic site and every president should visit.
- In 2016, Bernie Sanders campaigned there and said he was humbled to be in to be in the presence of four of the greatest American presidents.. CNN described the scene as awe-inspiring.
Pundit Burt Prelutsky tells us that The New York Times — in picking up on the ludicrous complaint by some American Indians that the faces on Mt. Rushmore should be sandblasted because the national monument was carved on indigenous lands — managed to overlook one salient fact; namely, that the Times building exists on formerly indigenous lands.
So, let’s tear down the structure located at 620 Eighth Avenue. After that, we can talk about Mt. Rushmore.
Burt also says that it verges on the sacrilegious that Nancy Pelosi disgraced America by handing a folded flag to the brother of career criminal George Floyd. “It is an honor properly reserved for the families of members of the military and law enforcement who have perished in the performance of their honorable duty. It should never be bestowed in honor of someone who couldn’t even spell the word ‘honor’ simply because he, himself, was the victim of a crime.”
You Goya Guys! Executives in corporations that sell commercial food items are probably developing strategies on how to encourage Democrats to boycott their products since the phenomenal success of Goya Foods recently.
Soon after Goya CEO Robert Unanue praised President Trump during a White House Rose Garden event featuring Hispanic leaders, Democrats called for a boycott of Goya products. It backfired.
Goya products are now hotter than its adobo and its brands are flying off store shelves.
Goya Foods is the largest Hispanic-owned food business in the U.S., employing more than 4,000 people, many of them Latino. The family-owned company, founded by immigrants, also donates millions of pounds of products to food banks across the nation to help needy families.
A local Amelia Island businessman who asked to remain anonymous told me he has been buying large quantities of Goya canned goods and donating them to a local food bank.
Since Goya is known for its various varieties of beans I suspect that soon many shoppers will be as odiferous as what’s coming out of Democrats’ mouths.
The decision to play a “Black National Anthem” during the first NFL games of the season and the name changes of its teams has driven me away for good. The Star-Spangled Banner is a unifying anthem and everything else these kneeling knuckleheads are doing is just the opposite. Will these bozos also play anthems for gays, bisexuals, transgendered, Latinos, Asians, dwarfs, cross dressers, looters, rioters, alcoholics, drug addicts, etc.? When they’re done there’ll be little time left for football and the players will be exhausted from all the kneeling anyway.
I suspect many others are as fed up as I am, particularly when we look back and begin to understand when and why the public’s respect for the NFL organization is crumbling:
- In 2012 the NFL had an issue with Tim Tebow kneeling before each game to pray, they also had an issue with Tebow wearing John 3:16 as part of his eye-black to avoid glare and made him take it off.
- In 2013 the NFL fined Brandon Marshall for wearing green cleats to raise awareness for people with mental health disorders.
- In 2014 Robert Griffin III (RG3) entered a post-game press conference wearing a shirt that said “Know Jesus Know Peace” but was forced to turn it inside out by an NFL uniform inspector before speaking at the podium.
- In 2015 DeAngelo Williams was fined for wearing “Find the Cure “eye black for breast cancer awareness.
- In 2015 William Gay was fined for wearing purple cleats to raise awareness for domestic violence (not that the NFL has a domestic violence problem).
- In 2016 the NFL prevented the Dallas Cowboys from wearing a decal on their helmet in honor of 5 Dallas Police officers killed in the line of duty.
- 2016 the NFL threatened to fine players who wanted to wear cleats to commemorate the 15th anniversary of 9/11.
So, Commissioner Roger Goodell you and your spineless team owners tell us again how the NFL supports free speech and expression. For God, our military, social causes such as mental health, cancer, domestic violence, for cops killed arbitrarily, for being cops, or for the Memory of 9/11 there is no respect.
The NFL only abides demonstrations of disrespect for our flag, our National Anthem, for America, and for the American People. The NFL has shown itself to be a despicable organization and I want no further part of it.
An Informal Poll: I’ve been wearing this face mask the past several weeks at the three major grocery stores on Amelia Island and in shops and eateries where mask-wearing is required. I have been pleasantly surprised at the reaction I’ve received as I expected occasionally to have a few anti-Trumpers confront me telling me my support was misguided. Just the opposite has happened. I’ve had shoppers I’ve never met approach me giving a thumbs up sign, telling me they “like my mask” and asking where they can get one. I’m assuming these are folks who don’t answer the phone or respond when pollsters ask how they’ll vote. The only individual who confronted me negatively has been a weekly writer for the local News-Leader bi-weekly newspaper, a not so surprising situation.
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