Island Issues

Fernandina Beach Tax Payers Getting Hosed; The City Commission Promises It’ll Get Worse

Fernandina Beach Tax Payers Getting Hosed; The City Commission Promises It’ll Get Worse

If you’re a property owning tax payer in Fernandina Beach you’re getting hosed and it’s going to get a lot worse, the City Commission and City Manager guarantee it.

Tax increases? What tax increases?

City Commissioner Chip Ross explains our financial soaking as payment for “quality of life” amenities. Meanwhile, City Manager Dale Martin — whose lips never move while Ross sits on his knee spouting Mortimer Snerd inanities — nods his bobblehead in agreement. With the surprising exception of Commissioner Mike Lednovich – a recent convert to fiscal conservancy – the other three commissioners (Johnny Miller, Phil Chapman, Len Kreger) sit with their eyes glazed over, nodding as directed by Mr. Martin’s conducting baton.

Ross – who appears to have assumed the role of official city spokesperson – responds to email responses and inquiries from city critics questioning the municipality’s antics by demanding they “shut up and listen” and accept his bullying blather and transparent explanations for increasing taxes, inefficient government, a bulging and growing city staff, and more.

When asked to specifically define those “quality of life” issues, Ross cites historic downtown, the beaches and environment, marina, a golf course, the airport, parks, and the big comfy leather chairs commissioners sit in at their Tuesday evening meetings. He didn’t really mention the chairs, I made that up.

Historic downtown was ramrodded 30 years ago by former mayor and commissioner Beano Roberts and paid for by private businesses and grants. But that doesn’t stop the current city crowd from extorting the businesses located there with illegal impact fees, permitting threats, and discouraging future entrepreneurs.

The marina was designed and built in the 1980’s by Robert J. Allison, a local private investor, and eventually gifted to the city by another private group in the late 1990’s that owned it at the time. The city has dramatically mismanaged this gift horse into a $15 million debt hole with an unbelievably fabricated FEMA fiasco scenario that defies reason and assumes we’re all naive simpletons.

Get off my beach or I’m calling the cops.

The beaches and environment were here when Jean Rebault discovered the island in 1562. The city still can’t figure out if folks should pay to park at the beach, drive on it, where to put trash containers, crossovers, or anything else. In the meantime, they’ve decided sea turtles have priority and call the shots, including when you can turn your lights on and where you can walk. Dissing a sea turtle hereabouts is a serious offense.

If you owned a company would you hire this group of bunglers to manage it? Of course not, no sane person would.

So, why in the name of common sense does the city own a money-losing golf course; a fiscally disastrous marina and an airport;  purchase worthless acreage and take it off the tax roles; and then build a $400,000 park that’s not needed or wanted except by a handful of people, most who live in the county. “Thanks a lot Fernandina for that nice Simmons Road Park. Come see us folks in the county sometime now ‘ya heah.”

Did I mention the city wants to hire more staff including an assistant city manager for a job that pays well over $100,000 a year not including all the benefits? If that’s not enough then ask about the city’s underfunded pension programs, ranked some of the worst in the state.

Since 2017 city staff has increased by more than 30 employees. The city population in 2017 was 12,550. Today’s population is 12,558. Did the city need 30 more people to handle the additional eight residents, an almost 4-1 ratio for those eight? And now they want to add even more.

“You gotta pay to play.”

Pirates once ran Fernandina Beach and they were eventually run out of town. Even they didn’t do as much damage as the current city government. Those guys were private enterprises and took pride in being called “privateers.” They were encouraged by various government bodies to handle a variety of seafaring odd jobs of a dubious nature and the government took a cut. It worked like the current City Utilities Department and its illegal impact fee scam run by the city’s enforcer John “You Have To Pay To Play” Mandrick.

Today the city pirates the businesses in the form of inefficient and slow permitting, the discouragement of expansion, illegal impact fees, buying worthless land at extravagant prices and taking it off the tax roles, and more. As one prominent local businessman said the city is run like a criminal enterprise for the benefit of the city officials and staff. Tax payers are their piggybank. Think the mob’s protection racket.

“Hey Dale, I have an idea. Why don’t we raise taxes again and call them fees?”

City Manager Martin, who has written a number of articles recently about taxes and the spending plan, said at a recent meeting that information he sees about the tax issue from “this side of the desk” is “frustrating.” Really? He should see it from this side of his desk. It puts a whole new blush on the word “frustration.”

Local businessman, attorney and entrepreneur, Pat Keogh, who has often felt the brunt of the city’s strong-arming tactics says, “Nothing will change sustainably until the system changes to engage competition and to put assets back into the private economy. It’s all about incentives and the likes of Ross get too much satisfaction spending other folks money where the only accountability is their self-righteousness.” Mr. Keogh has extensive real estate holdings in Fernandina Beach and Nassau County ranging from office buildings and rental properties and to restaurants and acreage.

“No, those aren’t taxes, they’re just fees.”

Commissioner Ross fails to point out that if you live in Fernandina Beach you are also a resident of the county and pay its fees and taxes too. County residents pay only county taxes. So, name one benefit of living in the city limits that you don’t have by living in the county? Just one. I can’t either. Ross fails to tally up county taxes plus all other fees city residents pay. “Fees” by another name are taxes as they come out of the citizens’ pockets. What exactly, are tax payers getting for their money other than frustration and lower bank accounts?

If you’re looking for a candidate to fix this mess I’ve met one so far who shows promise and that’s Bradley Bean. More about him in a later column, meanwhile, here’s his web site

There are a couple running who will actually make things worse. One is incumbent Chip Ross, for all the reasons stated above. The other is Alexandra Lajoux, who said she supports using taxes to purchase conservation land and much, much more.

Ms. Lajoux’s constituency consist of trees, who don’t pay taxes and never complain. She’s a strong advocate for impact fees and is vehemently anti-business. If you think your taxes are too low, then vote for this fiscally irresponsible candidate, then brace yourself.  She’s called for additional outside financing to improve city finances to: “leverage the city’s positive financial situation (what?). “When they see our financials are as square and honest and healthy as they are, we are not bleeding money” (She’s obviously delirious). “We have a lot of debt, but we are managing it well,” she says. This oblivious woman apparently studied finance at the Close Cover Before Striking School of Economics and Screen Door Repair.

Lajoux’s opponents are David Sturges and Genece Minshew — who have to be more coherent than she is, as they couldn’t be any dimmer. Please, do your neighbors and fellow citizens a favor and do NOT vote for Ms. Lajoux. She needs remedial courses in finance, not votes.

Ross, who is running for reelection, said he would not support the tax rollback rate that would keep our taxes where they are because the city would have to cut capital improvements and maintenance. He will vote to increase taxes. The city is adding eight staff positions, buying worthless land, building a massive new $4.5 million fire station, etc., all expenditures he supports. The budget also includes a $1.5 million “loan” from impact fees to purchase the post office on Centre St. as city hall, that the city manager previously said was not for sale.

Ross’s opponents are local undertaker Wendall McGahee (he knows where the bodies are buried) and Amelia Island Coffee Shop Manager Ricky Robbins, Jr. (whose product will help keep you awake during the deadly boring Commission sessions). More about them at a later date.

Commissioner, current Mayor and Palace Saloon bartender Johnny Miller, admitted on his personal Facebook page that “a LOT” of people have told him they don’t understand the numbers. Neither does Miller, but he’s term limited and won’t be running again, a bright sign in an otherwise dismal outlook.

If you think your vote won’t count think again. Ross won his City Commission seat in the December 12, 2017 runoff by just 251 votes. Voter turnout in the runoff election was 24.04 percent. Of the city’s 10,568 registered voters with just 2,541 casting ballots. Can we afford another four years of his spend thrift, arrogant, bullying?

The confused folks responding on Mayor Miller’s Facebook page are exactly where the city likes them…in the dark.


How Stupid Are We? This past Wednesday I stopped at a local downtown shop and purchased two American Flag face masks ($9.95 each plus tax) for Linda and me to use during yesterday’s “Support The Police” walk. When Linda opened her package, she asked me: “Did you know these were made in China?”

I looked at the plastic packaging and sure enough printed on the front it said” “Made in China.” On the inside a small piece of paper written in Chinese and English provided information on the materials used to make it, the Chinese city it was made in, etc.

The only thing it didn’t say was: “Herro stupid American! Thank you for buying mask to plevent disease we sent to kirr you.”

The Chinese marketing genius who came up with this brilliant ploy will probably get a statue next to Chairman Mao. Maybe they could put it in Seattle next to the one of Lenin that’s already there and has been ignored during the Marxist mob’s statue toppling, defacing rampage.


What Are Cops For Anyway? Police in Newport, Oregon had to remind residents in a Facebook post of the following, confirming that the folks in that liberal state are dumber than a box of hair. “It’s hard to believe that we have to post this. Do not call 911 just because you ran out of toilet paper…we cannot bring you toilet paper. You will survive without our assistance.”


Did Somebody Say Marina? We all know by now that the Fernandina Beach Marina is under water in massive debt due to the incompetence, deception and outright lying by the captains running the city ship.

The city created $12.5 million of new taxpayer debt, while being fully aware that a FEMA grant had not been approved. They did so without a plan to pay for it – except by hosing its residents through higher taxes.

On November 2, 2018 City Manager Dale Martin was quoted in the online news outlet NCFL Independent saying: “All permits have been secured and a revised FEMA estimate of $6.4 million for only the southern attenuator (the original $6.5 million FEMA estimate was for the southern and northern portions) has been completed and wending its way toward final signature.”

But less than two months ago – this past May – FEMA notified Martin that the original estimate of $6.4 million for the southern attenuator was denied and the correct amount was $624,768.

The same inept city officials responsible for the massive debt we’re now burdened with are getting ready to hose the tax payers again to pay for their deception and lies. Hang on to your wallet as the Chip & Dale team strike again.

It’s obvious that nobody at the city has the slightest idea of how to run a small municipality much less a marina. These people can only run their mouths.


The Tax Killing Posse: If you’re fed up and want to get involved in cutting taxes, stopping reckless and irresponsible spending, cut through the lies, deception and fog coming out of city hall then join Common Sense, a group of like-minded citizens who banded together to expose what’s taking place in local government and bring it to a halt. The group has both a web site and Facebook site for city residents interested in participating and joining Common Sense. They can call Frank Quigley at (312) 259-1741 or Jack Knocke (470) 295-4365. Or contact by: Email: ​ FaceBook: ​ Web:​http:///


No NFL! Who Cares? NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, who makes $45 million a year overseeing nothing and defends the kneeling, ultrarich, anti-American professional football twits, tells us: “Without black players there would be no NFL.” Possibly. But he’s obviously forgotten that without ticket buyers, radio listeners, and TV viewers there’ll be no NFL. When you call your fans racist low lives then you might have trouble filling stadiums Roger.


Apparently Black Lives Don’t Matter: In 2019 there was a total of 19 American servicemen killed in Afghanistan. In a WAR! If 19 had been killed in one weekend the media would have gone crazy. Yet there were 18 young black men killed in just Chicago last weekend, and four more on Monday. Where are the headlines about that? Where are the media and Black Lives Matter? Where’s Jessie Jackson, Al Sharpton, Lori Lightfoot, the black mayor of Chicago, Eric Holder, Barack Obama, who’s from there? They’re all back people who should be outraged and deeply concerned. Where’s is Nancy Pelosi, the Senate Minority Leader Chuck “The Schmuck” Schumer?  Nowhere to be found. This is an example of what BS the whole racist cops mantra really is. If black lives really mattered to any of them, they would be outraged at the ongoing massacre in Chicago and other large Democrat controlled American cities. All of the dead blacks were killed by other blacks. But 18 blacks killed, including a three-year-old girl is just a normal day in Chicago. It destroys the narrative about cops killing blacks. The media are a disgrace. It goes without saying the Democrats are no better.


Democrats Destroy Everything They Touch: Minnesota has a Democratic governor. Minneapolis has a Democratic mayor and police chief, but everything bad in the state is Trump’s fault. In Democrat controlled Baltimore, which has experienced a huge spike in murders and other crimes over the past several months, the city is responding by cutting $22 million from their police department.  Meanwhile, in New York, which has seen an increase in murders by 21% and a 46% jump in shootings this year over last, has just cut its police budget by a billion dollars. Apparently, New York’s Democrat Mayor de Blasio and those in other Democrat controlled and crime-ridden cities are convinced the crime wave is the result of the police being overpaid.


BLM BS: A recent social media sighting mocked the typical chant by the BLM: “What do we want?” “We don’t know!” “And when do we want it?” “Now!”


Ayatollah Ya So! The clerical cretins that run the terrorist country of Iran must be slack-jawed in disbelief as they tune in American news networks and see crowds of mindless young rioters swarming the streets of major American cities chanting their mantra of “Death to America”  while burning American flags and destroying historic landmarks. Those robed Iranian lunatics must desperately want to high-five their Democrat Party sympathizers and the American university system that successfully brain-washed these clueless twits.

One of the most pathetic acts resulting from all this wanton destruction and anti-American rioting are the spineless actions of U.S. companies tossing millions of dollars at the BLM and other anti-American Marxist organizations in hopes they won’t attack them. The suits that run these companies are as empty as the rioters heads. Disgusting.

Back The Blue On Amelia Island

Some of the crowd supporting the police. Photo courtesy Michael Ritter.

According to official estimates a little less than 500 local folks walked along the parade route through Fernandina Beach yesterday (July 2, 2020) to display their support for the law enforcement officers that protect our community 24 hours a day. Those participating wore patriotic clothing and carried signs and flags indicating their support for law enforcement officers. The group walked from South Front Street, up Centre to South 9th Street and down Ash as observers and bystanders waved and cheered them along. Fernandina Beach Police Chief James Hurley and Nassau County Sheriff Bill Leeper participated but did not organize the event. The event was spontaneous, sparked by “Support The Police” signs that popped up on Amelia Island the past few weeks and disgust at the shabby treatment of law enforcement elsewhere in the U.S. Pajamadave Voorhees of PJD’s Beer & Wine Garden and Amelia Island Coffee Shop Manager Ricky Robbins offered bottles of cold water to those walking and helped coordinate the efforts. Unlike the group of Black Life Matters “protestors” that performed a similar walk recently, this was a local group that didn’t provide speaking venues, nor did it encourage its participants to chant slogans. The “Back The Blue” group consisted almost 100 percent of local residents unlike the BLM event. A  driving rainstorm just prior to the event and again during the walk didn’t deter those participating. Following the walk, they departed soaked but with their spirits high and dry.


Kathy Alexis - 08. Jul, 2020 -

I love you Dave! What a refreshing blog post of truth!! Can you please run for commissioner? I would vote for you. Sadly, the property tax hikes will have a very negative effect on those who live on a fixed income. Chip Ross doesn’t care, he’s an ER doc, raking in the cash! He’s turning Fernandina into the Democrat hellhole he came from (Maryland). I sure hope the locals vote him out of office and send him back to the Tiki Bar where he came from.

Al MacDougall - 05. Jul, 2020 -

White 79.2% Black 10.7% Hispanic 6.6% Asian 3.5%
We are indeed a diverse community it would seem.

Glen - 04. Jul, 2020 -

At least your negative comments are predictable. “Your a racist”, is now an assumed catch phrase for, “I got nothin”….

Just a thought, for the racist baiters, why not comment on specifics and the merits of the conversation rather than just regurgitating the standard catch all phrase. Is there a place for a difference of opinion or open conversation or are we all just to line up and march to the cliff?

Relax, it’s not a real question we all know the answer.

WT - 04. Jul, 2020 -

Still a vile racist misogynist sexist pig I see

Al MacDougall - 04. Jul, 2020 -

Some things rise and rarely come down
Airplanes, balloons, and satellites, they say
And what have we in ole Fernandina town
But the chance each year to pay and pay.

Skeet Taylor - 04. Jul, 2020 -

Sheriff Leeper and Police Cheif Hurley were at the Black Lives parade and they spoke to the crowd. So are you saying that we ought to root them out of there jobs?

Gwen Shea - 04. Jul, 2020 -

About the people running for city commissioner, Genece Minshew is a member of Racial Equality Coalition, participating in the recent BLM march downtown. Marian Phillips participated in the Back the Blue march. It’s important to understand who you are voting for.

Frank Quigley - 04. Jul, 2020 -

In the past 6+ years the city has raised taxes (real estate, business taxes, fees) as opposed to cutting costs. Taxes and city spending have grown far faster than population or household formation. There are no signals, at all, that out-of-control City spending being addressed or that there is any tamping the brakes (even temporarily) on non-essential spending. Commissioner Lednovich attempted to address this topic in the April 7 commission meeting, but the conversation went nowhere.

Ask why the City buys fully-loaded new vehicles (for example), why it turns them over regularly, and also whether we could perhaps use them longer – the typical answer is “we use best practices”. Or that the City has won fleet management awards from a national magazine. It’s never, “Good point. Thanks for asking. We will look into it.” In one e-mail exchange a certain Commissioner accused the questioner of slandering the City fleet manager as “incompetent” and copied the very competent fleet manager on his reply. (Our Fleet Manager is doing his job very well, as directed from the top.) But that’s the level of constituent-service here. Ask a question, get side-stepped, then get accused of something you didn’t say, or even intend!
So the only option the City sees for filling financial holes they’ve dug is raising more money – raising taxes. The City always falls back on “we would have to make cuts in the capital budget” (meaning none of the needed repairs at the Atlantic Center, Peck Center) and won’t even consider a hiring freeze or other General Fund trimming. No it’s simply “easy peezy” just wave the magic millage wand. Meanwhile, businesses and local governments across the country are cutting costs – but we stay in our own reality. Please vote for fiscally-responsible candidates in the Fall.

James Rankosky - 03. Jul, 2020 -

I agree that Democrats are ruining this country, but how can our “Republicans” of Nassau County call themselves Republicans? Republicans are supposed to be conservative and want less government in the people’s lives. Our so called “Republicans” are pretty much sheep in wolves clothes; they have a Democrat mindset but run under the Republican ticket. We’ve lost our beaches, and more of our liberties are being taken away from us. I’m probably going to run for council because I’m sick of these bastards controlling us.

Bernie Fink, Jr. - 03. Jul, 2020 -

Hey Dave, thanks for the info on Fernandina’s non-budget. My wife & I discovered this area last year; we fell in love with it. Now it sounds as if it resembles Pennsylvania—no budget, heavily taxed and NO listening of various opinions! God (I do believe in a CREATOR) help us!!! Was thinking of moving there, but not now.

Bonnie - 03. Jul, 2020 -

What a racist piece. How many Asians do you know? The ones I know are a lot smarter and more literate than you. They are good, hard working people. What a disgusting slap in the face.

Sheila - 03. Jul, 2020 -

Not that many of us needed reminding but thanks for reminding us of your racist sniveling rants and why you are one of the most despised folks on this Island.

Margo Story - 03. Jul, 2020 -

Hi Dave, where can I get an application for assistant city manager…..hahahahaha? Have a great weekend!!

Tony Crawford - 03. Jul, 2020 -

Dave, no matter where the mask was made happy to hear you guys had the common sense to wear a mask while in a crowd.
let me be the first, and probably the only one, to thank you for helping others to stay well.
Have a safe and happy 4th

Richard N. Kurpiers - 03. Jul, 2020 -

Mr. Scott, a couple of questions:
1. How many black people do you know and talk to on a daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly basis? Actually, it’s a rhetorical question since I’ve already perused your Friends List.

2. How many HOAs exist within Fernandina Beach city limits?

Gary W - 03. Jul, 2020 -

You seem to have all the answers, Dave, so what’s your answer for this mess – Why is it that after four months of pandemic, it is still extremely difficult to get a Covid test done without leaving the county and/or waiting in line for hours on end? Which leadership vacuum is responsible for that debacle? Hint: It’s not the City Manager.

Vito - 03. Jul, 2020 -

There is a website I accidentally found a few weeks back that really takes the data from the Chicago shootings and breaks it all down.

It’s a great read I if interested, it shows you where this country is going under Democratic leadership.

Francis Kane - 03. Jul, 2020 -

Well along the lines of “you can’t make this stuff up”. Why would our police support and participate in a non sanctioned BLM march by mostly folks from out of town. I was stuck in traffic after the march and didn’t see any local plates. BLM is the same group that wants to defund the police or even far worse. Let alone BLM protests typically have not gone well for the cities they have shown up in. How does this benefit our overtaxed city and it’s inhabitants? Along the lines of protecting a county’s taxpayers has anyone noticed how the sheriff of Clay county has gotten out in Front of the potential problems that with will occur when The RNC convention arrives in JAX? You know the county on the other side of the bridge. The RNC elites will be staying on our Island. Not in Clay county for the most part. Gee, If I was so inclined to be an angry protester or anarchist then our peaceful little island would be a prime target, not clay county. Let alone get prime media coverage. It would be nice to know if our law enforcement has comparable plans similar to the astute sheriff of Clay county.
On another note It was good to see the local support for our police. I come from a family of NYC cops and firemen. It’s a thankless and dangerous job. I support them completely, their politics not so much. It was encouraging to see the “close” knit locals in support. From the photo it showed folks not wearing masks which our petty little bureaucrats and city manager have now made mandatory and a 2nd degree misdemeanor. Yes, the same clueless bureaucrats who closed our beaches based on 100% incorrect information from their experts, CDC and WHO. This new rule and our local beach closing were not ruled by the state. I guess citations should have been issued yesterday. At some point, hopefully folks will realize this is all about control and nothing else. Once again the behavior of our local gov’t reminds me of another one of Orwell’s books, “Animal Farm”. In it the leader Napoleon (a pig) states ” some animals are more equal than others” this was in a reply when he was questioned about their new society. Last week we had another relevant quote from “1984”. It’s just a coincidence I guess.

Bruce Smyk - 03. Jul, 2020 -

1. Why doesn’t someone from Common Sense run for the City Commission?
2. Does the Common Sense organization endorse candidates?
3. Shouldn’t someone fro Common Sense (or anywhere else) try to talk one of Chip Ross’ opponents into dropping out of the race so as not to split votes?
4. Under “How Stupid Are We?”, who in their right minds would pay $20 for 2 masks in the first place?
5.How many City Commissioners attended the “Support the Police” walk? Shouldn’t you identify them?

Aretrox - 03. Jul, 2020 -

What a real cluster———
that a once quiet and peaceful town Fernandina
has evolved to.If the voters
would turn out on election
day maybe it would vote in
better people.Thank god our
condo is NOT in the city limits.

Micah Ward - 03. Jul, 2020 -

Dave, do you have a count of how many local politicians who marched with BLM also marched in the Police Support March?

Vincent Cavallo - 03. Jul, 2020 -

“As one prominent local businessman said the city is run like a criminal enterprise for the benefit of the city officials and staff.” Reminds me of the scene from Goodfellows where in the narrator says: whenever we needed money we robbed the airport. Speaking of the airport, I notice the city approved using mostly grant funds for $2 million or so to rehabilitate runway 22. Seems the scheme is to apply for grants from a compliant FAA. So far they have garnered over $10 million on various projects like the $4+ million club house, er Terminal. Once they pour in grant money there is no going back so the grant pipeline is like the gift that keeps on giving. Kind of like the albatross in the old Coleridge poem. One other comment caught my eye, Simmons Road park. Not all county residents were in favor of it Dave, me for one. I pointed out sometime ago in a note to the city the park was mostly going to benefit county residents.

Donna O’Neill - 03. Jul, 2020 -

I walked in the march and saw some families and a number of African Americans participating.

Peg Dickinson - 03. Jul, 2020 -

You don’t have to go as far as Chicago to see how many black deaths happen daily, mainly by guns, how about adding Jacksonville to your list of cities? It’s so sad, and no one seems to have the answer, certainly not me. Jax also shows it doesn’t have to be a Dem controlled city, Jax is all Rep, this is a problem across the board.

Jerry King - 03. Jul, 2020 -

I know the photo of “Support the Police” is probably not the only one, but the first thing I noticed was the age group participating, appears 40 and up. The second thing no African Americans! So this was just a group of “white, privileged supremacist racists”?
LOL…I’m sure that’s how it will appear in the News Leader….
As always the Police and you have my support!!