Island Issues

Mayor Miller’s Groucho  Impersonation; The Perfect Muffuletta & Is Uber Coming Here?

Mayor Miller’s Groucho Impersonation; The Perfect Muffuletta & Is Uber Coming Here?

groucho-marx-quotesFernandina Beach doesn’t have a comedy club forum but as long as Mayor Johnny Miller sits on the City Commission it doesn’t need one.

Last Sunday Mayor Miller took his “Miller Time” stand-up routine to the Green Turtle Tavern in an event billed as a reelection fund raiser and it was one of the most knee-slapping, roll-in-the-aisle, hilarious performances that has ever been performed locally. I was unable to attend the event for two reasons: 1- Mr. Miller didn’t invite me and; 2 – I wouldn’t have gone anyway. However, I did see it all on You Tube and here are some verbatim highlights from the mayor’s show:

  • To warm up the crowd he looked out at the Turtle’s customers and his sprinkling of supporters saying “a lot of you here can’t vote because of issues!” This generated nervous laughter and had folks looking at each other quizzically, as the only “issues” the whacky mayor could possibly have been referring to were those folks in the audience that are felons. Sticking with the crime theme he added: “People who deserve the right not to go to jail are still going to jail.” There are some jokes I just don’t get and that was one of them.
  • “There are people in this state who love each other and can’t get married,” he quipped. Since gays and lesbians can and do get married in Florida, I assume the mayor was referring to siblings, crazy cat ladies, guys and their toaster ovens, or any other unnatural matrimonial combination. This guy’s a laugh a minute!
  • Mayor Miller revived the guaranteed “DYNOMITE” laugh line used by comedian Jimmie Walker in the 1970s TV show Good Times when he told
    Screaming woman holding coffee mug next to laughing friend

    Reacting to the Miller Time reelection performance.

    the audience (and I’m not making this up) that “They wanted to blast dynamite-loud off our coast searching for oil.”

  • It appears that Mr. Miller has trouble locating other elected state officials telling the audience: “Go to D.C. and try to talk to your governor. It’s hard to get to these guys.” Well, Johnny, it’s hard to get to Florida Governor Rick Scott in D.C. because he resides and works in Tallahassee.
  • Comments that make Mr. Miller’s most ardent liberal supporters grin were those that induce cringing by the local chambers of commerce and the Nassau Economic Development Board including: “They are widening the roads in Yulee. We are under attack. This is a paradise for developers.”
  • In a gross example of government overreach and flagrant government interference, Johnny went after a local individual property owner saying: “Google the area at 14th Street and Lime. It’s a wooded area now open for development for affordable housing.” Geez Louise, converting a mosquito-infested, garbage strewn, swampy area into affordable housing for the area’s police, teachers, etc. is anathema to the mayor who admires the living conditions of the palmetto bug and insists the rest of us emulate it.
  • The bartender-mayor also urged the audience to come down to the Palace Saloon and talk to him while he’s working saying he’d write their concerns down on bar napkins. Continuing with his “talk-to-me-at-work” theme Mr. Miller said: “If you want to legalize weed that’s cool…talk to me about that, I’m all for it.” Did “weed” have a role in the mayor’s rambling, disjointed comments or is he this hilarious on his own?
  • To explain why he’s running for reelection he did a perfect Norm Crosby imitation saying: “I wasn’t going to run again but got invited to do this by accident. This is a very distinguished election.” Johnny, here’s some free advice: If you are going to use malaprops in your presentation, make sure the malapropism is obvious, or your audience may think you are not too bright, and you won’t get a standing ovulation for your fox paws.

I’m convinced that Johnny Miller’s concern for the environment is not about the environment but an irrational dislike or envy of the majority of folks who live on Amelia Island. Why else would he advocate programs that reduce our standards of living, abolish personal property rights, increase business regulations, intensify traffic jams for commuters, provide convicted felons’ voting rights, reduce energy sources, increase energy costs and put tofu in every pot and pot in every house. What he’s against most residents are for, and what he’s for, most residents are against.

And despite three years on the City Commission Mr. Miller still does not understand that development and growth are guided by zoning not by unfairly singling out an individual property owner like the one at 14th Street and Lime, which is an inequitable over-reach by a locally elected zealot.

Don Quixote and windmil

Mayor John “Quixote” Miller.

Most of Mr. Miller’s issues are not local — they’re extreme Earth Liberation Front and PETA platforms — even though the Florida State Legislature has repeatedly told loopy municipality politicians like Mayor Miller to butt out of issues that the state’s nationally elected politicos are focused on, and stick to the local issues they were elected to handle. Johnny says he is “pissed off” because the state legislators passed a bill pre-empting local wild-eyed extremists like him from banning fracking in their communities. In other words, they prevented the inmates from taking over the asylum and acted in the best interests of the majority of citizens of Florida who didn’t elect fanatics like Johnny Miller, who want to limit us to two teaspoons of water in a toilet we have to flush 18 times to empty.

The island won’t be as funny without the loopy Mr. Miller on the City Commission and I won’t have an abundance of blog material, but we will all certainly be better off with him gone and bartending full time. A vote for Mayor Miller’s opponent, Eric Childers, is a vote for a serious and conscientious candidate who has the best interests of all the area’s citizens at heart.

Based on his performance and campaign platform three years ago Mayor Miller should use the following Groucho Marx line as his campaign slogan: “Those are my principles, and if you don’t like them…well I have others.”

A forum featuring the candidates,  former Commissioner Childers and Mr. Miller, will be hosted by the online newspaper Fernandina Observer Thursday, October 20 at 6:30 p.m. at the City Commission Chambers in City Hall on Ash Street. Democrat Coleman Langshaw and Republican Bob Sturgess, who are vying for a Port Authority seat have also been invited. I will most certainly be there.


Uber Uber Alles? I’ve never used Uber’s services because it makes me nervous not knowing who may be behind the wheel.

In a small community like ours I usually know the driver when I call a local cab or limo, and I also know that there are a variety of criteria they have to meet in order to safely drive me where I want to go.

Even though I’m not a big fan of government regulation it is obvious there are some that are necessary to protect the public. For example local cab and limo drivers have to undergo background checks, be licensed by the state, and have adequate insurance. And their vans and cars have to meet inspection criteria. All of this protects their passengers.

But do transportation network companies (TNCs) like Uber have to follow the same rules?T

Uber is making moves to expand into municipalities all around the country and its aggressive expansion plans are being stopped in many places by lawmakers because of safety concerns and, pressure from taxi companies.

Fernandina Beach is no exception.

Fernandina City Attorney Tammi Bach told me she and Mayor Johnny Miller had a meeting with representatives from Uber about five or six months ago to listen to the company’s plans to do business here.

Nico Findeisen, a local transportation company owner-driver, who heard about the meeting, told me that there are some 20 transportation companies currently operating here who are strongly opposed to Uber entering this market.

Mr. Findeisen says that Uber should be denied permission since its cars are not adequately insured; their drivers don’t undergo background checks; its cars aren’t properly inspected and the company lacks a Florida license to operate. This is not to mention that fact that Uber fees significantly undercut those of current transportation companies, which is a major concern of the local transportation firms.

When questioned about Mr. Findeisen’s concerns Ms. Bach told me that based on her research Uber actually requires more regulations than what most municipalities do, saying that insurance limits are five million dollars opposed to the municipality’s one million and that Uber cars cannot be more than 10 years old. “This would actually disqualify me from being an Uber driver with my two cars,” she added. She also explained that Uber drivers get 20 percent of their fares.

However, she said the decision as to whether Uber will be allowed to enter the Fernandina Beach market isn’t up to her. “The next step,” she says, “is to put this up for discussion before the City Commission to determine whether we want to allow ‘digital dispatch services’ here.”

Nationwide 34 U.S. states and more than 69 cities have passed legislation governing ride-hailing TNC companies. Another six states have enacted legislation mandating minimum insurance requirements.

Some lawmakers and taxi and limo companies are pushing for more stringent regulation on things like driver fingerprinting, pick-up locations and fees.

According to CNBC, Florida is among the 16 states which have not yet adopted statewide regulation governing ride-hailing companies. The Florida House and Senate closed the last session locked at an impasse over who should govern TNCs; the local governments which regulate taxi firms, or state regulators which Uber prefers.

Miami-Dade, Florida’s most populous county, has passed legislation legalizing Uber and the company Lyft, and loosening taxi regulation.

summer vacations design, vector illustration eps10 graphic

However, Hillsborough County, which encompasses Tampa Bay, is looking at rules that include requiring driver fingerprinting. According to CNBC both Uber and Lyft have opposed these rules and their fate there is unclear.

“The proposed regulations — ­­which closely track regulations proposed by the taxicab industry in 2015 ­­ — would protect the incumbent industry by imposing anti­-competitive and antiquated regulations on the TNC industry,” wrote Kate Wooler, an attorney representing Uber, in a letter to Florida Public Transportation Commission Executive Director Kyle Cockream. She says the rules are an effort to keep Uber out of the market.

The local transportation companies have their work cut for them in lobbying the City Commission.

Mr. Findeisen asked “Whatever happened to support for local businesses?” He should rightly direct that question to Mayor Johnny Miller, who ran three years ago on promoting and helping local companies, but abruptly turned his attention to business bashing and bag-banning instead, and has since busied himself banning seismic testing, hugging trees, denying owners the right to develop their own property, and more. As far as Mayor Miller and transportation issues are concerned, he took the voters for a ride last time around and residents have a right to be very suspicious of any position he takes on this topic.


Overheard At The Bar: During a conversation at the Crab Trap’s downstairs bar Wednesday while enjoying the Trap’s bargain 75 cent wings and two buck beer specials, someone asked out loud about the recent chaos in various U.S. cities saying “Didn’t ‘violent protests’ used to be called ‘riots’ and didn’t ‘home invasions’ used to be called ‘break-ins”? We all nodded in agreement wondering when and why the terminology changed. And speaking of riots like the ones in Charlotte this week how does looting a Wal-Mart, the NASCAR Hall of Fame, shoe stores, etc. reduce what the rioters say is “police brutality?”  Maybe they just want the cops to leave them alone while they’re busy hauling off their stolen goodies.


Look At Me! Look At Me! The networks that cover the National Football League are quick to turn their cameras away from the drunken loons that streak across the playing field seeking a few seconds of fame so why don’t they turn their cameras away from the handful of twits like San Francisco 49er second string quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who refuse to stand for the National Anthem? Like Florida Times-Union columnist Terry Dickson said in his column Thursday: “Just ignore the fools and they’ll soon go away.”


Speaking Of The NFL: According to Wall Street Journal sports columnist Jason Gay, there are seven NFL teams whose goose is already cooked this year and have little chance of making it to the playoffs, much less the Super Bowl, and Jacksonville is one that we can all stick a fork in as it is well done. The light at the end of an 0-2 team’s NFL tunnel is sparking out as only three out of 377 teams in NFL history began 0-2 and went on to win the Super Bowl. But the fact that the Jaguars are the worst team in the league, doesn’t deter the Florida Times-Union from its daily slobbering, over-the-top coverage. After a 38-14 humiliating pounding by the San Diego Chargers last Sunday the paper wasted four full pages detailing the debacle on the west coast. The other NFL games were provided one single paragraph each except the “nobody cares” Seattle-L.A Rams game, which for some unknown reason rated a five column photo of the L.A. Coliseum and a detailed story. Are sports writers now allowed to drink in the office?


Found: The Perfect Muffuletta: The search to find the perfect muffuletta on Amelia Island or anywhere nearby ended at the Surf this past Sunday.

Last Sunday New Orleans native Joey Ledet, who runs the Amelia Island Hospitality Group’s Fletcher Avenue Surf, presented me with a muffuletta, that could have come directly out of New Orleans’ Decatur Street Central Grocery, the home of this delicious sandwich.

While watching the Washington Redskins-Dallas Cowboys game Sunday Joey took some of the sting out of the Redskins’ loss for me by producing a New Orleans specialty that I consider one of the best sandwiches I’ve ever eaten anywhere.

To get it right requires talent, the right ingredients including the proper bread, a perfect tapenade and the correct combination of meats, cheese, etc. One simple slip can screw this sandwich up, but Joey got the whole shebang perfect. Joey, who arrived here from New Orleans about two years ago and is related to just about everybody there who owns a stove, gets his bread from the Central Grocery and insures that all the other ingredients are exactly the same as the other ones from that Crescent City icon.

Cajun Muffaletta Sandwich with Meat Olives and Cheese

The Surf’s perfect muffuletta.

Now you could order one by phone or online directly from Central Grocery in New Orleans and have its muffuletta sent to you via Federal Express or UPS, and you would pay $109 for a minimum of two of the 10-inch sandwiches, that Central Grocery says feeds 6-8 folks. As they say on the TV infomercials “Why pay more?” Or you can save time and $76 for two by going to the Surf and get the same identical sandwich from Joey’s kitchen for $18.00 or a half for $9.00. Folks, this is a sandwich that will feed two adults and a kid with some left over and you can’t tell the difference from the Central Grocery’s original product.

Each muffuletta is made on a 10″ round Sicilian sesame loaf bread that stays crusty despite the sloppy fillings. It’s stuffed with ham, salami, Provolone and a briny marinated olive salad filled with Kalamata and green olives and other pickled veggies. It can be eaten cold and many times I’ve taken one home and heated it in the oven….no microwave please. But don’t try this at home as you can’t successfully make one there as I’ve tried and failed many times. As an aside, I also tried making sushi at home once and ended up with bait a fish wouldn’t even touch.

Anyway, the tiny New Orleans Italian grocery store, Central Grocery, which opened in the heart of New Orleans’ French Quarter in 1906, created the unusual muffuletta sandwich as a meal to go. It’s first owner, Sicilian native Salvatore Lupo, designed the sandwich as an easy way to serve farmers who would stop by for a traditional Sicilian lunch where everything was eaten separately. To make their meal portable Salvatore sliced open a whole loaf of his Sicilian sesame bread and stuffed everything inside creating the now legendary muffuletta.

So if you want to experience a real muffuletta locally, or try one for the first time go to the Surf. Call ’em at 904/ 261-5711.


Good Friends & Good Eats: Friends Joe Murphy, Cal Atwood and I had our monthly BS luncheon at downtown’s recently opened Puerto Rican restaurant Lechonera El Coqui at 232 North 2nd Street this past Wednesday and left full and satisfied. I had eaten there once before and enjoyed the $9.50 bargain 1/4 oven roasted chicken with a side of yellow rice and pigeon peas, but this time ordered the “Tipletta”, a pork, ham and steak sandwich with lettuce, tomato and mayo ketchup that is also just $9.50. It was more than I could eat by half and I had another meal with it at home later. Cal and Joe both had $9.50 sandwiches and we shared an order of “Relleno de papa carne”, fried potato balls with a meat filling. They also left with half their sandwiches boxed. All-in-all the meal and the conversation were fun and interesting and we’ll be back , but not on Mondays as they are closed then. They have a variety of beers and an interesting wine list. Call ’em at 904/432-7545. We’re headed next month to the surf on October 12 for the muffuletta.


John Guerin - 26. Sep, 2016 -

Hi Dave,
I keep forgetting to check your site since you left the FB paper. Really enjoy your point of view and writing.
Regarding Uber, I too was reluctant but LOVE it. I’ve used it in many major US cities and in Europe. Every time the car was clean (some very nice!), the drivers polite, and the ride pleasant. But what was best was no tipping required and automatically charged to your credit card. Also, you get an estimated fare up front – usually 50% of the taxi fare, and an immediate email receipt afterwards. All this and you are asked to rate your experience. You can see your driver’s rating prior to pick up. So they have good control of their drivers. You should really try it!

Patrick J. Keogh - 23. Sep, 2016 -


Good issue. Miller has the Fernandina disease. That is, he creates problems that are unsolvable rather than deal with the real problems citizens have.
I’m a frequent user of Uber and Lyft around the country. In fact, I take it from the airport to Amelia Island. It’s a great service and hard to beat the price. Ms Bach is right about the insurance . Typically, their coverage is much higher than that required of the more regulated industry. Finally, years ago I worked in telecommunications and the arguments I hear from the regulated cab industry today sound a lot like those coming from the telcon industry back in the 70s. If government had listened then we might all still be using rotary dial land lines. The gig economy is here to stay and I think the communities that welcome the changes will prosper. Download their apps and live a little.

Tom Yankus - 23. Sep, 2016 -

NFL TV ratings were in toilet the first two weeks this season compared to recent years as they continue to feature “Colin and the Copycats” in the pre-game. Jax Jags “Gus Bus” is running on fumes as the coach is now part of NFL history having the second worst record all time through the first 50 game of any coaching tenure. Surely owner Shad will make a change (SOON!) and offer Bradley the job as the cheerleading coach for this pathetic franchise?

Richard Troxel - 23. Sep, 2016 -

This past week on our monthly trip to the Island for business and Doctors appointments,I had lunch with my friend Colson Hillier and new friend Dave Scott the infamous Blogger and man about town.The guy really does know everything that’s happening on the Island and very interesting person to get to know.BTW,Colson celebrates his birthday today in New Jersey with his family,three sons plus many others.Will not reveal his age (80plus) but the second busiest man on the Island.His schedule would wear out most people half his age.Have played many rounds of golf with him in awe of a man his age,has shot his age or better several times at Amelia River Golf Club. The best 18 holes in Fernandina Beach,I only hope to be half as good at the game as he is when I grow up.