Listening to liberal activist Commissioner Johnny Miller bloviate with haughty moral certitude on a litany of far left social and economic topics ranging from increased bureaucratic regulations to outrageously strict environmental curbs will probably have any business that was considering Fernandina Beach as a possible location scurrying to seek a more sane climate to set up shop.
The Fernandina Beach Commissioner’s antics must be a nightmare for the Nassau County Board of Economic Development and the Chamber of Commerce as I’m sure the folks in those organizations would like to flip the off switch on this guy who treats profit making operations as if they were discovered on the beach clubbing baby dolphins to death.
Despite running on a “bait-and-switch” pro-business platform that included issuing press releases with headlines saying “Let’s Make it Easier to do Business Here,” Mr. Miller, since his election, has done a 180 degree pivot, and is now bashing local companies with a degree of enthusiasm and regularity that would have Michael Moore wetting his pants with excitement.
Look for a TV camera or a reporter at city hall and you’re likely to find Commissioner Miller lurking nearby as he’s probably the one who notified them that he’s ready for his 15 minutes of fame. Mr. Miller wants to ensure that he’s on record as he seeks to legislate his leftwing beliefs and impose them on others to correct what he views as economic, social and environmental injustices.
Nothing is safe from Commissioner Miller’s pitchfork and torch tactics as energy companies, the Port of Fernandina, CSX railroad, the two mills, local grocery stores and even a pet shop have all been targeted during “Miller Time” as rapacious industrial capitalists motivated by evil intentions, obscene profits, a scorched earth policy and an intent to rape kittens.
The latest episode in Mr. Miller’s litany of posing as a champion of fighting for the little guy against the rich and powerful came at the July 21 city commission meeting when news cameras mysteriously appeared in the back of the chamber. It continued into the next day when in a rambling, disjointed screed during a budget review workshop he shamefully attacked a reasoned and poised Laura DiBella, director of the NCEDB. By comparison, Ms. DiBella’s rational thinking, professionalism and poise made Mr. Miller’s opposing rants and rudeness look like that of a three-year-old refusing to take a nap.
Ms. DiBella, who was invited to speak by City Manager Joe Gerrity, addressed the commissioners on her request for funding, summarizing a 2012 campaign during which the city had committed $25,000 for five years to promote the community to potential non-residential developers. The funding had been pulled last year and she was requesting that it be reinstated.
With the exception of Mr. Miller all the other commissioners including the outspoken Ms. Gass were in favor of restoring some or all of the funding. And when Commissioner Miller spoke his disorganized vocal word jumble included mispronouncing Ms. DiBella’s name even though she had corrected him earlier.
But back to the July 21 session where — seeking to paint himself as a defender of the environment against marauding industrial capitalism — Mr. Miller blindsided his other four commission colleagues when, during the end of the session reserved for the commissioner’s reports, he blatantly attempted to get the commission to adopt a resolution opposing the transfer of coal from ships at the Port of Fernandina.
Mr. Miller said that he had received an email from a local citizen urging the commission to adopt the resolution, which failed since it was not an emergency item. Since it had not been announced publicly 24 hours in advance of the meeting it couldn’t be approved or discussed.
After reading the resolution, which none of the other commissioners had seen prior to that time, Commissioner Miller said he had recently visited the WestRock mill to look at their coal handling operation and found nothing of concern. So what. He was concerned anyway. He also expressed alarm about Kinder-Morgan’s potential to off-load coal from barges in the Amelia River. Kinder-Morgan is the operator of the Port of Fernandina. He did not mention they had any imminent plans to do so, but indicated that the potential is also a concern because Kinder-Morgan has not “taken it off the table” igniting even more concern by the already very concerned commissioner.
So despite the fact there he didn’t see anything wrong, and that both organizations are operating environmentally sound operations, Mr. Miller apparently needs to appease his pitchfork and torch gang. And, Hey! there’s a Jacksonville TV news camera and crew that someone called, setup in the back of the room and the liberal commissioner was sporting a recent haircut and a suit and tie….no need to let all of that go to waste. Besides there was a lot of concern that needed airing.
According to the online Fernandina Observer newspaper the research and filming had been completed before the meeting, and only Mr. Miller’s comments had been added, along with a shot of the city commission meeting that evening. Hummmmm.
Even the voices in the head of Commissioner Pat Gass were startled by Mr. Miller’s antics and they urged Ms. Gass to say: “I feel this is an effort to suck us into fear mongering which is going rampant in this community. Can we just get the facts?”
Miffed at losing an opportunity to expose the capitalistic evils taking place at the port and the mills and announce a victory on the 11 o’clock news, the Observer reported that Mr. Miller said: “So even though we are saying we don’t support coal handling at the port, nobody wants to second this.” With that the Observer reported, he snapped his computer closed and said, “I’ve heard what I need to hear. Thank you.”
Former Mayor and Observer Co-Editor Susan Steger expressed her frustration with Commissioner Miller’s actions in an email to him the day following the commission session telling him: “Making a motion during commissioner comments, especially one that blindsided fellow commissioners, was very much out of order.” The traditionally low-key and thoughtful Ms. Steger continued adding: “Just want you to know that was very inappropriate. It was clearly staged especially learning Fox News was ready to go. I hope you don’t ever do that again.”
The email from Ms. Steger was sent to the Observer by Mr. Miller and published in its commentary section.
The most recent Miller Time activity was beach-related where he was acting as spokesman for turtles saying: “(Turtles) don’t have a voice. We’re their voice.” According to the online newspaper Nassau County Independent Mr. Miller was supporting a group of Turtle watchers who rightly say beach furniture and gear that is left on the sand overnight can – and has – blocked the trip for nesting turtles on Amelia Island. “I wouldn’t be surprised if it gets national attention,” said the publicity hungry commissioner. And I’m sure Mr. Miller will insert himself smack in the middle if and when it does.
Not all of Mr. Miller’s targets are flawless but his approach, tactics, grandstanding and over-the-top antics are embarrassing to the city, distasteful to many and he’s putting an entirely new blush on rudeness.
Gass Attack: If having to sit through the silly Miller Time shenanigans aren’t enough, I can’t imagine why anyone would want to be a Fernandina Beach City Commissioner. It certainly isn’t for the paltry salary, the endless verbal abuse by tax payers, the more than 40-60 hours of time involved weekly, or the time away from a job or business that provides a livelihood.
Where’s the upside? For self-absorbed posers like Johnny Miller it’s an opportunity to grandstand, promote left wing causes, and get his name and picture in the media. For most of the others it’s because they sincerely believe they can add value to the community where they live and work. I don’t always agree with them, but, with the exception of Mr. Miller, I believe their motives are altruistic.
One thing I do know, it’s not for the money. Commissioners are paid $12,000 a year by the city for serving and for some of them half of that is about what they spent getting elected. That comes to less than $6.00 an hour for a 40 hour week, and since $7.08 is Florida’s minimum wage, I fully expect Commissioner Miller to arrange a sit-in protest in Tallahassee to declare his disapproval, once the media has been notified of course.
One perk that is offered to the commissioners is health insurance, a benefit that Commissioner Pat Gass feels should not be available because, she says, other city employees, who are part-time workers don’t receive it. Ms. Gass apparently did not elect to accept the city’s insurance because she gets hers elsewhere, probably at a better rate as a family member of an insured individual, but I really don’t know. She supports a measure removing the $42,000 budgeted for this program in the FY 2015-16 budget and recommend the money be used as grants for city non-profit agencies. Nice!
Ms. Gass is a commissioner I rarely agree with and this is no exception. I don’t know where she gets her insurance while Mr. Miller’s coverage is provided through his US Navy retirement benefits. Others, however, are self-employed and do take advantage of the insurance plan.
City Comptroller Patti Clifford said that the insurance plan has been a long standing benefit, and that more commissioners in the current fiscal year are taking advantage of the benefit than in the previous year.
Once taxes, social security and additional insurance coverage for family members are subtracted from a paycheck a commissioner could very well end up paying the city to serve. One told me the last monthly check received came to $356.22, not much money for the ration of crap tossed at them via emails, phone calls and during Tuesday evening meetings, workshops, and having to sit through Commissioner Miller’s endless, mind-numbing scolding and inane lectures. However, while Mr. Miller drones on, Ms. Gass ensures the group is wide awake with her eye-popping “I can’t believe she said that” comments.
Since the insurance benefit was offered at the time all of the current commissioners ran for office it should remain. Taking it away now would be similar to a corporation sending out an offer letter to a prospect outlining the salary and benefits, then changing it once the newly hired employee accepts and arrives on the job.
During the Tuesday, July 21 commission session, Resolution 2015-102 to transfer $13,318 to the City Commission Health Insurance account from various commission and human resources accounts for unbudgeted health insurance costs passed 4-1, with Ms. Gass dissenting. Good grief, even the voices in her head should be ashamed.
Hide The Women & Children: Univision, the Spanish language TV station, says that 80% of the women crossing our southern border are the victims of rape. So if it’s not Mexicans who are raping them, which is what Donald Trump is being condemned for saying aloud, someone should ask who’s doing it says West Coast Blogger Bert Prelutsky. Could it possibly be the Swedes, the Finns or those notoriously hot-blooded Norwegians?
Florida Teachers Get An A+: It’s crucial that students read at grade level by the third grade and number one in the nation for low-income students on reading is Florida, where 66 percent of students read at the basic level and 27 percent at the proficient level, as measured by the NAEP 4th grade reading test. This comes despite Florida spending less on K-12 education as a percentage of personal income than all other states and having the eighth-highest poverty rate. I’m assuming the state’s success is because it doesn’t let the unions run the classrooms, hires the best teachers, fires the crummy ones and concentrates on the basics. How else to explain this?
A Bad Rap: News reports say rapper 50 Cent filed for bankruptcy prompting one pundit to say the broke rapper “doesn’t have two quarters to rub together.” Remember the old adage that your name is your most valuable asset, but not in this guy’s case. He used to pinch a penny till it squealed; now it just sobs quietly said one Atlanta pundit.
So You Think You Work For Stupid People Department: It has been reported that the morons that run the Social Security Administration (SSA) spent three times more money than they collected while was trying to recover accidental over payments . A report by the inspector general discovered that the SSA spent $323 million to attempt to collect $128 million while recovering just $109 million resulting in a net loss of $214 million. And these are the folks running your health care, protecting you, etc. Good grief!
Things I Wish I’d Said: “Did it surprise anyone that the country that invented the philosophy major just went broke?” — Conan O’Brien
The Reason Mayberry Was So Peaceful? Someone sent me an email asking if anyone else has ever taken note of the fact that in Andy Griffith’s quiet and peaceful Mayberry that almost nobody was married. The singles included Andy, Barney, Aunt Bea, Floyd, Howard, Goober, Gomer, Sam, Ernest T. Bass, Helen, Thelma Lou and Clara. The only one who was married was Otis, and he was always drunk.
Pink Flamingos? If you’re wondering about a flock of some 50 or so plastic pink flamingos planted in the yard of the award-winning 614 Ash Street Addison House Bed & Breakfast yesterday, it was the work of quirky Canadian owner Bob Tidball, to celebrate his wife Shannon’s birthday. Apparently Shannon chided Bob last year for not doing enough to celebrate her big day, so this year Bob pulled out all the stops and covered the lawn with some 50 plastic flamingoes to give Shannon a birthday surprise she and their B&B guests will not forget anytime soon. The 50 birds are not indicative of Mrs. Tidball’s age but are the largest number Bob could get his hands on or so he tells me. People like Bob Tidball make living here fun.