Musings, opinions, observations, questions, and random thoughts on island life, Fernandina Beach and more

Musings, opinions, observations, questions, and random thoughts on island life, Fernandina Beach and more

Locals Are Fed Up With Fernandina Officials’ Incompetence

Fernandina Beach residents unhappy with the city’s out-of-control spending, inability to manage projects, and its upside-down list of priorities are increasingly voicing their grievances to their elected city commissioners.

Daddy Warbucks and The Big Spender

Those that take the time to voice their displeasure to the Commission often receive a snarky, dismissive response from the self-righteous, pompous, and self-appointed city spokesperson Chip “Daddy Warbucks” Ross, who reliably copies City Manager Dale “The Big Spender” Martin on his replies, subliminally signaling: “I’ve got your back on this pal.” Despite the fact he has no more authority than anyone else on the Commission, Ross takes it upon himself to speak for the city and nobody in authority questions it. Why not?

In a nutshell Ross’s derisive retorts to complaining resident taxpayers can be summarized as: “Shut up and go away we’re busy mismanaging your money.”

I came across a letter from an articulate local taxpayer earlier this week whose comments succinctly and intelligibly expressed the views of many other Fernandina Beach tax-paying property owners.

Fernandina resident Mike McClane didn’t mince his words, thoroughly researched the subjects he addressed, and isn’t a man to be taken lightly. Following 22 years as a US Army intelligence officer he retired then spent 12 years as an executive in the private sector handling a multi-billion-dollar intelligence agency account for a major telecommunications firm. He holds a BS from Excelsior University and an MS from George Mason University. Mike and his wife, Linda, moved to Fernandina Beach from Annapolis, MD in 2017.

The only thing that Mr. McClane didn’t put in his missive that I would have added is that Martin and Ross should be required to ring little leper bells when they leave city hall premises to warn folks they are approaching.

Following is McClane’s no-nonsense letter to the Fernandina Beach City Commission reminding them who they work for and whose money they are entrusted with spending:

Commissioners,

The City Manager and his staff are long overdue developing an actionable plan that addresses the operations and maintenance of city (citizen) owned resources. It’s an interesting paradox that families and individuals live within their means, whereas government’s insatiable appetite for spending requires forever increasing tax revenue. It is time for the city budget to reflect reality and take into account overdue maintenance of those same resources.

The snowball effect of delaying maintenance and repair of multiple city resources has finally reached the tipping point. There doesn’t seem to a sense of urgency as the city ignores the decaying infrastructure for shiny new objects like Toptracer, waterfront park, more consultants, and additional staff. I continue to be amazed at the spending. Maybe it’s because the city bought software and then hired a consultant to figure it out for $150K. Yet another procurement head scratcher.

During last year’s budget cycle, it was absolutely imperative to buy new vehicles. Where did the idea originate to convert the city fleet to electric? All in the name of clean air?  After all, fossil fuel is still the most prevalent source for generation of electricity.

Here is my wish list of near-term priorities.

Fix the procurement process. Three quick examples. Awarding a sole source Toptracer contract for the iffy RNC Convention. Toptracer is not complete and ill planned without food and beverage service. Waste Management contract awarded to a low-ball bidder who now is demanding a rate increase. The city is complicit by discontinuing mulching facility and agreeing to terms untenable to 50% of the community. The afore mentioned software purchase. Was it mandated by the state? Was the $150K consultant considered as part of the procurement? Was it known that staff lacked the expertise? Was knowledge a requirement for recent hires?  What training is available for staff?

Beach walkovers and Amelia River shoreline are probably the most sensitive and critical environmental challenges for the city. It is disappointing that beach walkovers have essentially been ignored and patched together over the years. They are essential in protecting our dunes which in turn protects our property. It’s also relevant as the 1.2M tourists that visit every year do not likely appreciate their importance. The riverfront protects our west side and the historical area. I think we need to investigate additional options as the current number is unrealistic. Delay any more foolish discussion about a waterside park. We can’t afford it and it shouldn’t be a priority.

We need to come to some conclusion with marina and golf course debt. Hopefully, Oasis will increase revenue. My only concern is that the marina has been out of commission too long to attract snowbirds. That group is aging as well so there may be smaller numbers. The current political climate will also impact cruising for all but the most affluent as fuel prices increase. The golf course needs a phased plan to bring it back into shape. We don’t need 27 holes. I’m sure that some of us, me included, would appreciate a nine-hole Par 3 course Use the remaining space for other recreational activities.

Long-term priorities include City Hall and Peck Center. Maybe, the virtual workplace is a lesson learned from the pandemic. The replacement buildings may be much different than those today.

I wish you a productive session on Thursday as you consider what is really truly important to turn the tide and get our community resources back to where they should be. It didn’t happen overnight and will take some tough decisions and precise planning but now is the time.

Regards,

Mike McClane

 

Mr. McClane hammered home the point that many of the city’s woes stem from its inability to manage the procurement process, further compounded by its inability to manage contracts.

He has submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for the waste management contract saying there’s incomplete information on the city website. He cites his copy of the “scorecard” with the four companies having similar scores on three of four categories. Mike says the “4th category (Cost/Fee Proposal) was weighed the most at 35% and it’s obvious that Advanced Disposal ‘Lowballed’ the bid.”  He rightly suggests that the city should have investigated further, an understatement at best.

So, what does the city have to say? I assume Chip “Daddy Warbucks” Ross will answer for them all as usual.

***

City Hall Flacks: The city’s PR agency, the online Fernandina Apologist (aka The Observer) can always be counted on to print word-for-word anything City Manager Dale “Big Spender” Martin or “Daddy Warbucks” Ross sends to them defending the city and did just that Wednesday, January 27 with its lead story “An opinion/information – Waterfront Plan” an op-ed from Ross, explaining why the $20 million plus waterfront project is necessary. Mixed in among reader comments from the usual local fawning suck ups, was Atlanta resident and city hall sycophant David Lott, who for once actually disagreed with some of Ross’s blather.

***

Free Beer Tomorrow: No, really! Celestial Farms a non-profit Nassau County organization that rescues mostly farm animals is conducting a fund raiser tomorrow (Saturday, January 30) from 9 am until 6 pm at the Kraft Athletic Center on Buccaneer Trail.

The folks that run the organization know how to get attention with a free beer appeal and are even tempting junior with free face painting. If all that doesn’t get your attention there will even be a car show with a $5 recommended donation.

So, if you want to entertain the kids, quaff a free brewski, and attend a car show tomorrow, this is the event for you. Oh, you might also consider contributing to the cause. One hundred percent of all donations go to Celestial Farms to help out Turkey Lurky, Henny Penny, Goosie Poosie, and their down-and-out barnyard pals.

For more information call 904/307-3557, go to www.CelestialFarms.org, or just show up.

***

Huh? Three months ago, the same left-wing media currently praising Joe Biden for his “devout” Catholic faith was feverishly trying to convince anyone who would listen that then Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett’s strict adherence to Catholic teachings made her a “radical.” I notice that none of the media have so far questioned how Biden’s Catholic faith aligns with his indisputably anti-Catholic positions on abortion.

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Florida Invites Olympics Here: This week, state Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Jimmy Patronis issued a letter to the International Olympic Committee encouraging them to consider relocating the 2021 Olympics from Tokyo, Japan to the U.S. and more specifically to Florida. Recent media reports have stated that leaders in Japan have “privately” concluded that they are too concerned about the pandemic for the 2021 Olympics to take place.

He explained why Florida is an ideal choice saying: “As a tourism state, Florida welcomed 131 million tourists in 2019. Our state has ample hotel capacity and well-maintained transportation networks to accommodate the kind of infrastructure required for a major undertaking of this sort. Florida has 20 commercial airports, 31 urban transit systems, 12 major universities that have existing sporting facilities – and we have world-renowned health care facilities in each of our regions. I think most importantly, however, we have a state with leaders who are willing to get this done.”

Mr. Patronis also mentioned that Florida’s Disneyworld is open despite the pandemic but he should have mentioned that the state boasts many other popular attractions including the annual Worm Grunting Festival in Sopchoppy, the Smoked Mullet Festival in Niceville, and the entire town of Cassadaga inhabited by psychics. That should convince ‘em.

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Turnabout Is Fair Play Department: Andrew Left is a guy who makes a living tying to ensure that others fail financially so he can rake in money from their misery. However, when the tables are turned, Left, the founder of Clinton Research, cries foul, whining “people don’t understand boundaries.” For the past few days, this narcissistic jerk and pompous jackass has been taking a severe financial beating by shorting the stock of GameStop Corp. However, when online investors of that company drove up the shares, he screamed that it was unfair because outsiders were forcing his hedge fund to sell-off parts of their portfolio to cover his loses. He’s losing billions as are other such creepy, greedy bloodsucking short sellers. They think it’s okay for them to capitalize on the misery they cause, but holler “unfair” when the tables are turned. I love it. I worked for publicly traded companies that suffered from short sellers like Left and I’m enjoying watching them shriek as their billions swirl down the drain.

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Compensation Conundrum: In pre-Civil War America in 1860 there were a half million free blacks, half of them living in the South and half in the North. Some 3,000 of the free blacks in the South were slaveholders, holding more than 20,000 of their fellow blacks in bondage. How do those on the far left calling for reparations plan to compensate black descendants of black slaveholders?

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Ruth as a Red Sox pitcher

Foul Ball? As a baseball fan, I was saddened to learn of Hank Aaron’s death this week at the age of 86. As a kid I was a big fan of the Milwaukee Braves and the Atlanta Braves and cheered for Aaron when he broke Babe Ruth’s record for home runs. However, while Aaron ended up hitting 756 homers in his 23 seasons in the major leagues and Mr. Ruth hit 714 in his 22 seasons, it took Aaron 3,965 additional at-bats to hit just 42 more home runs. The discrepancy in plate appearances is explained by the fact that during his first six seasons, Ruth pitched for the Boston Red Sox. Hank Aaron captured four home run titles in 23 seasons, Ruth captured 12 in the 16 seasons he wasn’t pitching. In my mind Ruth is still the home run king. Disgraced druggie Barry Bonds doesn’t even enter into the equation.

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Sage Advice: The late Baltimore Sun’s “Sage of Baltimore” H.L. Mencken’s description of the government is even more apt now with Joe Biden as President than it was when he wrote it some 70 years ago. Mencken wrote then that government was a “predatory, regimenting force that fleeces the citizenry without flinching, that could and does safely strip the individual to the hide, a gang will-nigh immune to punishment.” Today, Mencken’s words would be condemned by the left’s totalitarian and woke cancel culture cretins and Mencken would be subjected to Biden’s army of censors and “deprogrammers.”

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Biden’s No-Energy Policy: My Tampa Plant High School pal and American Spectator writer Larry Thornberry emailed me his opinion Wednesday on Joe Biden’s program to dismantle America’s energy independence. Here’s what Larry had to say: “So far the only blowback on Sleepy Joe’s anti-fossil-fuel energy policy – which should be called a no-energy policy – concerns the pipeline and oil patch jobs that would be lost. These are important. But their loss isn’t the only cost of this crackpot war on fossil fuels. Push this too far and the lights go out. (And, my Florida friends, the first thing to go will be our air-conditioners.) Because the only energy fuels the Sierra Clubbers and other enviro-ignoramuses will hold still for is wind and solar. Not enough of these exist to fuel 10 percent of the American economy. And there won’t ever be enough of these, even if AOC succeeds in pushing a Democrat House and Senate to outlaw night and cloudy days. Want a return to abject poverty, hunger, sickness, and early death? That was the lot of most of mankind until fossil fuels provided abundant, reliable, and low-cost energy. Follow the Democrats’ energy policy down the drain.”

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Drinking, Dining & Dancing: Friend Steve Hall and I enjoyed lunch yesterday, (Thursday, January 28) at Jay Kim’s 10-month-old restaurant, Area 51 BBQ & Grill, at 510 South 8th Street and like the eatery’s name implies, we experienced the unexpected. The menu lists a wide assortment of both Korean and American barbecues and I guarantee you, there is no other place hereabouts where you can find such a wide and tasty assortment of fascinating foods. Don’t like Korean food. Fine, then order from the menu’s southern barbecue selections, that are as good as any southern BBQ joint I’ve ever eaten in between here and Mule Shoe, Texas. Personally, I love the spicy, sweetness of Korean food, that I initially learned to enjoy while visiting the wide variety of Korean restaurant’s on Atlanta’s eclectic Buford Highway many years ago. For some reason, many Korean meals come dressed with a fried egg, a tasty and decorative garnish. We both decided to take an Area 51 plunge into the unknown and asked the personable Mr. Kim to order for us. He willingly obliged and we shared plates of Kimchi Ramyeon, dumplings, rice, bokchoy and regular kimchi, glass noodles in broth, and bulgogi, a thin sliced marinated beef. It was as much fun eating these exotic dishes as it was trying to figure out all the interesting tastes  exploding on our tongues. It was our lucky day as Jay was offering free beer or wine as a winter special. Spend $40  or more and get 4 domestic brews or two glasses of wine. Pop for $75 or more and get six domestic beers or a bottle of wine. However, you’ll be hard pressed to spend much as the prices are some of the most reasonable in town. The most expensive item I found on the menu was a full rack of ribs at $28. There are sandwiches ranging from $13 to $15, Korean specialties from $16 to $23,appetizers priced from $9 to $12, and much more. Jay has taken the once dreary Gilbert’s site and transformed it into a cozy, cheerful and bright restaurant that invites diners to linger and chat, even with folks at neighboring tables. The service is flawless, speedy, and the servers knowledgeable and cheerful. Folks, this is a fun, economical and satisfying eatery whose food and ambience will have you returning many times over. In other words, Area 51 is out of this world good! They are open Mondays to Saturdays 11 am to 9 pm. You can order take out or make a reservation by calling 904/844-2120. Something I didn’t know until recently was that Main Beach’s Sandbar & Kitchen boasts the largest selection off whisky of any other establishment in Florida and possibly the entire southeastern US with more than 940 varieties. Prices range from five bucks for a one ounce shot to a whopping $1,100. Folks can join the Sandbar’s Whiskey Club for $39 a year, which gives them 25 percent off on all of the whiskies on Thursday’s plus more. Ask any bartender there for details. For more information call ‘em at 904/310-3648 or go to www.thesandbarandkitchen.com

  • Comment (13)
  • My favorite thing Mr. Mencken said
    “A good politician is quite as unthinkable as an honest burglar.”

    And good luck to Mr. McClane …that’s a great letter.

  • The out of control spending by the commissioners and the poor excuse of a city manager are serious problems. Is there a recall process that the citizens and taxpayers can use to removed these idiots and replace with fiscally conservative commissioners? One in office a serious discussion can occur related to replacing the current City Manager.

  • Dave,
    Thanks for the shout-out even though mildly derogatory in nature (“sycophant”). I have disagreed with Chip Ross and Dale Martin on a number of major issues such as the marina management contract, eminent domain actions, riverfront park stagnation, Simmons Road park and Toptracer at the golf course. I have the luxury of now being an outsider with no vested interest in any of these issues other than a love of Fernandina Beach and a desire to return even more often after retirement. While every business has a small percentage of employees that don’t live up to expectations, I was honored to serve as interim City Manager for six months in 2012 and witness the day-to-day working of city employees across all the departments. One could not ask for a more conscientious and dedicated group of folks and I will rise to defend their overall work ethic every time it is questioned.
    I fully recognize that those of us in the “peanut gallery” have it easy compared to those bearing the financial burden of these decisions. Many of these issues mentioned have been around for decades. If they were easy to solve, they would have been resolved years ago. Having different perspectives is a valuable part of reaching a viable solution.
    Thank you for the forum.
    Be Well.

  • Fantastic…and ditto examples of all given. Daddy Warbucks….re-elected! Obama…currently aka: Biden elected! Reason and common sense AWOL! Disgusted! Warbucks also a fierce love of “ masks forever”!

  • C…Del Crandall, 1B…Joe Adcock, 2B…Johnny Logan, SS…Felix Mantilla, 3B…Eddie Mathews, OF of Hank Aaron, Billy Bruton, Bobby Thompson and Bob Hazel. Pitchers were Warren Spahn, Lew Burdett, Joey Jay, Bob Buhl, Ernie Johnson, Gene Conley and others. 60+ years later and I still remember the World Series lineup of my then 1957 Milwaukee Braves. Memory lane from my mind of useless baseball trivia.

    • Tom, I recall that team well. Bob Hazle, a rookie in ’57 hit .403 with about 150 at bats so didn’t qualify for the league batting title. As a 13-year-old kid I rode my bike to Tampa’s Al Lopez Field in 1958 for a spring training game against the Chicago White Sox, spotted Hazle standing under the bleachers and asked for his autograph. He responded saying: “Sure kid. Want a cigarette?” It was the first time anyone ever offered me a cigarette. Pitcher Gene Conley also played center for the Boston Celtics and this year Warren Spahn, who was wounded in World War II’s Battle of the Bulge, would have turned 100. I still have my old baseball cards of the entire team, including the team picture.

  • I wish some of the know-it-all, self-anointed, geniuses who complain so vehemently about City government and the City Commission, spewing’s their half-baked knowledge of the City and the community with all of their 2, 3 or 5 years of living in Fernandina Beach, would run for office. Its so easy to arm-chair quarterback, but actually putting in the time and doing the real in-depth research and really learning the history of how we got where we are today, would be quite useful…but its so much more fun to bitch and complain, write nasty things about other people, who actually put themselves into the public fray, than do so themselves. Get off your collective arses and run for City or County Commission or some other office. Make YOUR case to the voters, not just some right-wing good ole boy club blog. See if you can actually get elected, then put yourself in the scopes of the entire community, and on the hit list of people who disagree with you. Also, you should actually have lived here for a real amount of time, certainly more than a mere five years, so you actually know something about the reality of things here, and the obstacles to overcome, to get things done. It AIN’T that easy guys, otherwise it all would have been fixed in a jiffy!

    I for one, have lived here for 40 years, ran for public office twice (lost both times, but at least tried!), worked for the City, and have some knowledge about this. The biggest thing I learned was how nasty people can be, and how half-baked or ill-informed many are. I learned that unless someone actually has a constructive, workable solution, not just “draining the swamp” or such broad-brush pointless hyperbole, its little value wasting time to take them seriously.

    SO get off your keyboards, out of your armchairs, and off your arses, and put your hat in the ring, and quit drinking the kool-aid from the same office water cooler…and for the love of god, stop being so damn nasty about just every damn thing. No one thinks you sound smarter by being this way, except maybe your own myopic circle.

    • Sounds like sour grapes from where I sit on my arse. Perhaps there was a good reason these “nasty people” didn’t elect you?

  • Dave:

    “Procurement” is the big opportunity for the city’s taxpayers. Why shouldn’t the City embrace a public policy that “We will deliver the best municipal services at the lowest cost available in our market”. Then, each City service manager, as part of the budget cycle, should be required to describe what he or she has done to meet that commitment. That’s the way most of us live our daily lives in the things we buy. Why shouldn’t the City, as the monopoly provider of municipal services, do the same thing? Everything the City does is available across the street in the County or in the commercial market.

  • During pre-Civil War, blacks secured their own freedom through escape, self-purchase, or being freed by the slaveholder. Do I really need to connect the dots for you to explain why free blacks owned other blacks?

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