Island Issues

What’s The Difference Between Fernandina’s Capacity Fees And A Mob Extortion Racket?

Public Utilities Director John Mandrick’s eyes must be spinning like a slot machine ready to hit the jackpot with the news that five of the 13 new restaurants and bars opening on the island this year are sitting on his Fernandina Beach shake-down turf.

All of the Fernandina Beach locations will be “Mandricked” as the unpleasant utility director greedily calculates the illegitimate impact fees to be extorted from these well-intentioned, tax-paying, job-producing new businesses.

So where does the $318 exorbitant per chair fee that the city’s chief extortionist extracts go? If the fees go toward the city’s water and sewer complex then the Fernandina Beach community should have a facility that rivals the Taj Mahall, but more elaborate. If they go to pay off debt incurred when the city purchased the utility, a judge ruled that illegal.

What I don’t understand is why our city commissioners sit on their hands, watching like deer in the highlights, as our city’s incarnation of Bedford Falls’ Henry F. Potter rubs a fore finger and thumb together hissing his “you have to pay to play” mantra at stunned entrepreneurs sitting across his desk. This guy has the social skills of Freddy Krueger.

In a 2014 court case Judge Brian Davis ruled that the City of Fernandina’s “impact fees” do not comply with Florida Law, that the “Impact Fees” were used to purchase the water facility as a whole in violation of law and that the amount of the “Impact Fees” were arrived at “through a wholly arbitrary negotiation process.” He also ruled that “Persons paying the Impact Fees have received no benefit from their fees which is rationally related to the payment of that fee.”

So what did the city do? It filed an appeal and lost, wasting thousands of tax-payer dollars in the process. It then calculated a cockamamie scheme to continue the fees, slipping around the court’s illegal label as it continues extorting its business community now calling them “capacity fees.”

In a comment to this blog last week attorney, entrepreneur, and local property owner, Patrick J. Keogh, who took his capital and fled the area for Texas, largely because of Mandrick’s shakedown efforts, elaborated on the town’s “legalized” mob activity as follows:.

“After the class action recovery of the city’s illegal water impact fees Mandrick led their reinstatement with the help of a new $25,000 consultant, changing the term to ‘capacity fees’ “, says Mr. Keogh.

“Fernandina, by Mandrick’s own admission, needs no new water or sewer capacity,” continues Mr. Keogh. “The systems are vastly overbuilt, and he (Mandrick) acknowledged that fact in a News Leader article and in testimony during the impact fee class action lawsuit.

“Impact fees may only be charged and spent to ameliorate the additional capacity required to meet the needs of new development. PJD’s (Pajamadave Voorhees’ planned South 2nd Street beer and wine garden) and the other new restaurants will cause no new capacity development. Mandrick is nothing less than a predator. And, like a predator, he attacks his prey when they are most vulnerable. You see PJD’s owners, like all new enterprises, have made significant investments in their business. They cannot start operations without a certificate of occupancy (CO) and Mandrick controls the issuance of the CO. So as Mandrick reminds citizens in Fernandina they ‘need to pay to play’. By that, of course, he means they need to pay him for the right to work and generate income from their investment and labor.”

Mr. Keogh says, “I don’t see how the City’s unlawful impact fees are any different than the protection sold by a mobster. We have all seen that episode where the mobster stops by the new business and scanning the owner’s investment says ‘it would be a shame for all of this to be lost when it can be protected for a small fee’. Pay-To-Play Mandrick runs the same kind of protection racket but his is authorized by government.”

I hope each of these new restaurants and bars have a special tiny, dirty, wobbly table reserved for the utility director, next to the men’s room and within inches of the kitchen’s swinging doors. Maybe they can charge him a $318 cover to sit in one of those “impact fee seats.”


See Here! I had cataract surgery on my right eye the last week of December and on the left one the first week of January, and for the first time in more than 50 years, I don’t need to wear glasses to drive, watch TV, write this blog or perform other tasks that require me to have my eyes open.

I bought a $6 pair of drugstore glasses to read newspapers, magazines and books, but can actually read pretty well without them. I am incredibly impressed with what medical science has accomplished and Fernandina Beach’s Southeast Eye Coastal Vision Center’s Dr. James R. Stackhouse’s performance in the operating theater. He exudes confidence and makes you feel as though you are his only patient despite the fact that he does up to 20 similar surgeries in a single day. The nurses and other staff at our local Baptist Medical Center also deserve a congratulatory shout out as I met nothing but pleasant, professional, reassuring, smiling faces during both of my procedures.

The spectacular results of cataract surgery are a result of procedures and lens implants perfected over many years, but none so much as those that began in the late 1990s. During my research I learned that cataract surgery is one of the oldest surgical procedures known, first documented in the fifth century BC when it was a little rough around the edges.

In that period of time cataracts were treated with a technique called couching, which was performed when the lens of the eye had become completely opaque, rigid, and heavy to the point that the strands called “zonules” that support it, had become fragile. The eye would then be struck with a blunt object with enough force to cause the zonules to break, so that the lens would dislocate, restoring limited but completely unfocused vision. I prefer Dr. Stackhouse’s method.


Inauguration Day Thought: It will be entertaining to watch liberals thrash around during the next four or eight years in a state of high-decibel indignation and constant panic.


If You Have To Ask “How Much?” Then You Probably Can’t Afford It: If you’re Interested in a membership at President-elect Donald Trump’s Mar-a-lago Palm Beach Country Club it requires a $100,000 initiation fee, plus $14,000 annual dues. Overnight guests pay up to $2,000 a night. The club is highly profitable and was well before Mr. Trump was elected.


Things I Didn’t Know: Until the end of the 19th century both British and American courts could forbid jurors from eating and drinking until they reached a verdict. It appears that justice in those days was not only blind, but in many cases hungry and thirsty as well.


T’ain’t Funny McGee: The Golden Globes and the make-believe playing Hollywood types that live in their isolated bubble there were so endearing with their lame jokes directed at President elect Trump Sunday, January 8. Their anguish is a gift that just keeps on giving. On a recent news show I saw the shocked and disgusted expressions on the faces of Mel Gibson and the folks at his table that gave the impression they had just stumbled into a drug and alcohol rehab facility where the patients had all relapsed and taken control. Oh, and the following is the lead paragraph from a two column nonsensical Associated Press report about the Golden Globes printed in the Monday, January 6 Jacksonville-based Florida Times-Union that discouraged me from reading that piece of swill any further: “The pinks had it Sunday on the Golden Globes red carpet, from Ryan Michelle Bathe on the arm of hubby Sterling K. Brown to a stunning Lily Collins in princesy Zuhair Murad, hair up in a loose, dramatic bun.” That in a newspaper that charges almost $500 for an annual subscription and told me that price is justified because advertising revenues were down. Well, yeh! What merchant in their right mind wants to advertise in a publication that considers that rubbish news?


Congressman Lewis’ Legendary Lapses: There are certain people that are considered free from criticism due to their past accomplishments and “legendary” status among them Mother Theresa, Billy Graham, Stephen Hawking, Georgia Congressman John Lewis, and others. But there comes a time for some when that shield of immunity begins to crumble and in Congressman Lewis’s case it finally came when he said President-elect Trump was not a legitimate president, that the Russians helped get him elected and said he will not attend today’s inauguration. Mr. Trump fired back, rightly saying that the civil rights icon should focus on his Atlanta Congressional district “which is in horrible shape and falling apart, not to mention crime infested.” Fighting for civil rights was admirable indeed and suffering a skull fracture in the process is tragic, but its time Congressman Lewis focused on the job he was elected to perform and understand that his “immunity card” doesn’t mean he is free to make stupid, inaccurate statements. Donald Trump will respond and will not hold back, no matter who is tossing verbal rocks in his direction.

What Congressman Lewis and the other boycotting Democrats fail to consider is that President Trump is the guy they need to be able to talk to help the folks in their districts. If they ignore the new President how does that help their constituents?

For example, Lewis’ Atlanta district has been a regular on  Forbes‘s annual Top Ten Most Dangerous Cities list for many, many years. Its number of homicides rose 17 percent to 111 in 2016, according to that city’s last weekly crime report for the year. In one violent stretch in June last year, there were 15 murders in just four weeks and in early November, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that the city had earned the dubious distinction of being considered “one of America’s top ‘murder capitals.'” On top of that a recent report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation found that incomes for Congressman Lewis’ white residents in his Atlanta district was more than triple those of blacks; high school graduation rate for blacks was 57 percent and 84 percent for whites; and black unemployment in his district was 22 percent versus a city average of 13 percent and a white rate of six percent. In a nutshell, Trump is right, Lewis’ record stinks and he’s not doing his job and his silly boycott helps nobody.

Congressman Lewis’ credibility is already in tatters as in the past he has falsely accused Senator John McCain and Sarah Palin of racism; falsely accused the Tea Party of using the “n” word at a Washington, D.C. anti-Obamacare rally; accused the Republican party of wanting to take the U.S. back to the days of Jim Crow and more. Using his “legacy card” as a shield  this guy has destroyed his own legacy with his outlandish and inane rants, actions and accusations and has gone from a civil rights legend to a legendary loser. Since Congressman Lewis is not doing the job he was elected to perform he should throw his belongings into the back of Obama’s moving truck and follow him out of town as his iconic status has far exceeded its expiration date.


A Disarming Photo: Gabriel Friedrich, an interesting, entertaining and humorous young man who works at Cumberland Island’s Greyfield Inn and often treks back and forth between the island of Amelia and his work place across the sound snapped this eerie photo following Hurricane Mathew’s arrival late last year and assured those of us at our weekly Wednesday evening Crab Trap wing and beer session that the arm was that of a doll that apparently washed ashore following the storm.


Drinking, Dining & Dancing: Lorenzo Church has made a lot of positives changes at the South 8th Street Halftime Sports Bar & Grill (painting the building black wasn’t one of them) but one that I particularly like is Mr. Church’s chili, a recipe that to me is like Goldilocks’ porridge — just right! It has a fine Texas flavor with a spice mixture that leaves just the right amount of sweat beading on your forehead as you eat it, and I understand that one of the ingredients is peanut butter, but so what, it seems to work to produce a creamy texture and it’s only five bucks for a heaping bowl that comes with toppings of sour cream, onions, cheese and more if you want them. In addition to this one Lorenzo is contemplating a second chili offering that enables folks that want it, an even spicier bowl of chili. Since the man won the downtown chili cook-off two years in a row it’s hard to argue with his success. I’m headed to the Fletcher Avenue Surf to watch the inauguration beginning at 11 a.m. today where Joey Ledet says he’s cooking up a special for the big day and possibly a Trumpelleta.  Come join me! For the third consecutive year Salty Pelican co-owner Al Waldis modeled my Washington Redskin jacket during the Dallas Cowboy-Green Bay Packer NFL playoff game after his favored hapless Jacksonville Jaguars failed to win more regular season games than my favored D.C. team. He insists that he wants to continue this sure thing for me again next year and I’m all in. The Amelia Island Museum of History will conduct its 15th Annual Charity Golf Tournament Friday, February 24 at the Golf Club of Amelia Island with all proceeds going to help fund the South 3rd Street museum. Entry fees are $150 per player and that includes a reception, cart and green fees, a goody bag with drink tickets, golf balls, an awards presentation, and more. Contact Chairman Joe Wise at 904/415-1927 or Cal Atwood at and form a team or let the organization pair you with a group.


Tom Yankus - 22. Jan, 2017 -

Hey Dave…Saw that you recently mentioned that the muffuleta sandwich at The Surf was reduced back to $18.99. Went by to have one Friday and split one with my wife and the price was still $21.99? Just letting you know.

David Scott - 26. Jan, 2017 -

Tom, I went there for lunch yesterday (Wed. Jan. 25) and had the muffuletta…It was $11 for a half and $19 for a whole one. You should have voiced a complaint.

Cal Atwood - 21. Jan, 2017 -

Dave: Especially liked your praises for Dr. Stackhouse and Nassau Baptist— both vital segments of our community totally deserving of our support.

And thank you for mentioning the Museum Golf benefit all set for February 24th at Golf Club of Amelia island. Cal Atwood


Micah Ward - 20. Jan, 2017 -

John Lewis and the others who chose to boycott the inauguration certainly have the right to do so. However, just because you CAN do something doesn’t mean you SHOULD.

Robert Warner - 20. Jan, 2017 -

Dave – Silly me.

Edgar Johnson - 20. Jan, 2017 -

Entertaining and informative. Subscribe

Robert Warner - 20. Jan, 2017 -

Waiting your decision on moderation of my last comment. Truth to power, you know.

David Scott - 20. Jan, 2017 -

Robert, I don’t need to “moderate” as your comment alone says it all. You make my case just like the protestors throwing rocks and vandalizing buildings during the inauguration parade. What’s the point? How do your silly comments and their silly actions accomplish anything?

John Moore - 20. Jan, 2017 -

Your article on Congressman Lewis was well said, factual I believe, not racist as any negative comments about him are declared to be. It is sad that people cannot speak their mind about the short comings in the black community with being called racist. Perhaps self criticism would be more helpful by people like Mr. Lewis. It could go some ways to improving the situation and not prolonging what is a deplorable death, crime, violence and drug problem that we see on the Jacksonville news every day. 12% of our population are African-American and yet the crime rate doubles or triples this number as whole. Do we not recognize a problem and want to work on a solution other than calling people who say this as racist? 18-20% of our population is latino but they don’t enjoy the favoritism shown to other minorities. Why?

Patrick J. Keogh - 20. Jan, 2017 -

Dave, as you mentioned, Mr Mandrick in a self laudatory article in the News Leader wrote “with a 3% growth factor we should not need any new treatment facilities until 2030”. Fernandina has grown about 1% per year since he wrote that. So, if citizens are good to 2050 or thereabouts why is Mandrick charging these restaurants impact fees? Because he can is the simple answer. Mandrick likes to think of himself as running a business. He doesn’t. He runs a monopoly with the authority of government providing essential public services; water and sewer. The impact fees he collects are supposed to be held in trust for the people who pay those fees and may only be spent to meet the new capacity they require. If no new capacity is required where do the funds Mr. Mandrix has extorted go?

Vince - 20. Jan, 2017 -

Bob, are you saying if someone did laudable things, they are incapable of being criticized for any political actions? Does the name Benedict Arnold come to mind? Excellent military record till he betrayed his Country. How about FDR putting American citizens in concentration camps based on their heritage?

Lewis seems to have a problem with all GOP elected presidents and those running: He implied McCain and Romney were racists and Bush and Trump illegitimately elected. I suppose if Hilery had been elected all the pay for play money donated to the “foundation” and the sale to Russia of part of US controlled Uranium assets while she voiced final approval as secretary of state would not have been issues regarding her legitimacy.

I do not believe Trump or Scott diminished Lewis excellent stand regarding regarding civil rights issues. The point is he is a partisan political figure following the desires of his constituency. He is being criticized for his political stance not his civil right record, period.

Joe murphy - 20. Jan, 2017 -

John Lewis is a “born again racist” . The 60’s are over. What are you going to do for me today ? Mentally retired and too much of an icon to help his own. What a waste.

Robert Warner - 20. Jan, 2017 -

We all know about Keogh’s disgust with Fernandina for not bending over and then kowtowing in his august presence. We know about your long running feud with an excellent and qualified, public official, John Mandrake. Now we know what you think about a great American – who put his neck on the line for civil rights in America – John Lewis. Remind us again about your white lists.

Sandra Pineault - 20. Jan, 2017 -

Thank you again for a great blog post. I especially appreciated the section about Congressman Lewis. The truth should set people free…I shall be sharing this.