Island Issues

What Causes The Most Harm To Area Citizens? The Virus Or The Fernandina City Commission?

Fernandina Beach City Commission budget session.

Like most U.S. municipalities residents of Fernandina Beach are experiencing distressing financial suffering due to the rampaging virus pandemic and government mandated lock downs. But unlike other towns Fernandina Beach’s misery is compounded by a trio of uncaring city commissioners and a tactless city manager indifferent to its citizens’ financial pain.

City Manager and City Commission trio’s message to citizens: “Drop Dead!”

The state of Florida is reporting record numbers of Covid cases and deaths as Fernandina Beach experiences higher than average unemployment rates due to its dependence on the hard-hit hospitality industry. Despite all this an unsympathetic Fernandina Beach City Commission trio and a callous City Manager sneered at its citizens who pleaded eloquently but in vain this past Tuesday for tax relief due to the pandemic and the financial hardship it has caused.

While city residents are losing their jobs and shuttering their businesses at a rapid pace, the Commission passed a motion that adds more employees to its already bloated ranks and raises taxes. Nobody at city hall has missed a paycheck and now they’re telling its financially stressed citizens they are going to have to pay for even more government parasites.

City Commission’s response to concerned tax payers.

An assembly of informed, polite, and unwavering residents made it exceptionally clear to the Fernandina Beach City Commission this past Tuesday that under no circumstances were they in a mood to swallow property tax increases, particularly with the virus pandemic negatively impacting them and their families. Ironically one of them was Patti Clifford, recently retired controller/finance director at the City of Fernandina Beach, a lady who knows where the fat can be cut.

However, City Manager Dale Martin and the three oblivious members of the City Commission made it exceptionally clear they don’t care what residents want or think. This is a city administration that spent a half million dollars on city park plans that have never been implemented, receives 60% of its revenues from property taxes and lies to us about its bungling of the $12 million FEMA-Marina fiasco. Why are we trusting these people with our money?

As the session began Commissioners Mike Lednovich and Len Kreger were refreshing exceptions, saying they agreed with the citizen’s tax cutting sentiments even before a succession of well-informed speakers voiced their unwavering opinion. Not a single citizen voiced support for City Manager Martin’s suggested budget bloat.

Arrogant gasbag Commissioner Chip Ross responded to the two fiscally conservative commissioners and the lineup of speakers asking for financial restraint with a series of eyerolls and sighs. Mayor Johnny Miller – pretending he understood what was going on around him — acted as an apologist for the city scrambling to justify every dime the city spends totally ignoring the speakers’ pleas. The term-limited Palace Saloon bartender fawned and groveled like a man interviewing to fill one of the unnecessary new positions City Manager Martin stuffed in his bloated proposed budget.

Many of the speakers were members of the citizen Watchdog group Common Sense and pulled no punches in reminding the Commission and City Manager Martin that the money they were planning on spending did not belong to them, but to city residents. “We’ll tell you how to spend our money” was their loud and clear message. It went unheeded. Common Sense has both a web site and Facebook site for city residents interested in participating and joining. They can call Frank Quigley at (312) 259-1741 or Jack Knocke (470) 295-4365. Or contact by: Email: ​ FaceBook: ​ Web:​http:///

Between Ross’s sighing eyerolls and Miller’s pathetic apologetic kowtowing, one of the the most egregious displays of contempt for the residents came from Commissioner Phil Chapman, who appears to be totally numb from the neck up.

Chapman answered impassioned and articulate resident and speaker Susan Decanio with insults and contempt. The well-informed property owner and businesswoman, Ms. Decanio, questioned a budget line item of $144,000 earmarked for charities correctly telling the Commission “I don’t want government deciding where I donate my money.” She asked for it to be reconsidered or eliminated and explained how the virus epidemic had negatively impacted her family financially. She wisely suggested a hiring freeze and a budget designed around austerity.

The tone-deaf Chapman was hearing none of it. He contemptuously and sanctimoniously shot back demanding that Ms. Decanio “volunteer for Meals on Wheels at the Council On Aging” like he does.

“Don’t insult me,” she swiftly fired back at the mealy-mouthed weasel. “I volunteer at Hope House and have a business that’s closed” causing the rightly chastised Chapman to slither back down into his over-sized leather chair.

When he ran for office four years ago Chapman’s platform consisted of nothing more than repeatedly saying: “I will listen.” For the past four years he may have listened, but he didn’t hear a word anyone said as his term has been a dismal failure. It’s obvious he has no aptitude for public service. Voters won’t have a chance to boot him off the Commission this November as he’s wisely decided not to run again. His legacy is an empty suit.

Commissioner Miller, Ross, and Chapman proudly displaying City Manager Martin’s response to financially strapped city tax payers.

The sycophantic Miller, pompous, gasbag Ross and clueless and tone-deaf Chapman ignored the voter’s pleas, and all voted yes for a millage increase to fund operational expenses for Fiscal Year 2020-2021 at 5.4983 mills, or $5.4983 per every $1,000 worth of property value after exemptions.

The rate, adjusted for inflation, represents an approximate three percent increase that will raise collections by some $500,000 – to $15 million from $14.4 million, according to the city. The board also approved another 0.1553 mills for bond debt.

Commissioners Lednovich and Kreger are the only two Commissioners who listened to the voters. Property owners have an opportunity this November to extract revenge on Ross, who is running for reelection, thus ridding the city of a noisy, derisory, and extravagant nuisance.


Thinking Out Loud: When I hear Fernandina Beach City Manager Dale Martin’s feeble attempts to shift blame from his office and the City Commission to FEMA for the $12 million load of debt they shoveled on to city taxpayers I find myself wondering aloud about a few things: 1- Where are the written documents saying FEMA would pay? 2- How many commissioners own or have owned a boat? 3- Has Martin? 4- How did the city, which received the marina free from private investors in 1992, turn it into such a massive debt-ridden mess? These are a few things voters might want to think about during the upcoming City Commission election.


Hupp, left, and Ray. Photo courtesy of Michael Ritter.

What’s Having The Virus Like? What’s it like to get the Covid19, the Chinese Plague or whatever this pandemic virus is being called?

A number of my friends on Amelia Island say they’ve had it and have recovered nicely.

Alan “Hupp” Huppman (54), his wife Lulu (47) and Ray Hetchka (66), and his wife Jody (65) all came down with the virus and have all fully recovered.

Only one –  Hupp – suffered any consequences and he’s not 100 percent sure the virus caused it or merely exposed an underlying issue.

Hupp and Mr. Hetchka, who are well-known hereabouts as the popular singing duo “Hupp & Ray” ( and are founding members of the popular “Honey Badgers”, perform at public and private venues across Nassau County and South Georgia and beyond. If you’ve ever been to the Sandbar & Kitchen, Sliders, PJD’s Beer & Wine Garden, The Surf, Ritz, Omni, Green Turtle or and any other watering hole, resort, or restaurant you’ve seen and heard them.

With the exception of Hupp all four experienced similar symptoms and compared the virus to a case of the flu or a cold. Following three or four days of feeling fatigued, a metallic taste in his mouth and a fever, Hupp recovered, only to experience chest pains that sent him scurrying to the hospital ER. Tests there revealed that he had pericarditis, an inflammation of the sac surrounding the heart.

However, pericarditis is not as serious as it sounds. Treatment includes medication for pain and inflammation, such as ibuprofen and aspirin and Hupp is currently taking an anti-steroidal for the condition.

All of these folks were in excellent health prior to contracting the virus. For example, Hupp is one of four local military veterans preparing to row across the Atlantic to focus awareness on veteran suicides and help bring down those numbers. His regime consists of working out at the gym every other day, spending time on the water rowing, and carefully monitoring his diet.

His wife, Lulu, was a respiratory nurse at the local Baptist Nassau Hospital before opening up her new Hawaiian Soap Shop at 4 North 2nd Street ( Ray and his wife Jody own and operate Kayak Amelia ( and spend time escorting guests across area waterways. All display healthy lifestyles and had no underlying health issues. That may have led to their rapid recovery and mild symptoms.

Most told me that it was like a cold, with some chills, a mild fever, and a cough. It affects each person differently but nothing I heard sounded life-threatening.

The local “Foar From Home” team (left to right) Paul Lore (Marines), Billy Cimino (Army), Cameron Hansen (Air Force) and Hupp Huppman (Navy).

How did they contract it?  Hupp, who tested negative June 28, thinks he may have contracted the virus July 6 during a recording session that included four young people who had the virus but were unaware of it and never experienced flu-like symptoms. That evening he felt the first symptoms, a metallic taste in his mouth, a fever and oddly enough, a feeling of hunger. The next day he went to the Urgent Care facility on South 8th Street and was told he had bronchitis. Nine days later his test came back positive, but he had already recovered. On July 14 he experienced the chest pain that led to the discovery of pericarditis that is now fully under control and he’s back to his Foar From Home ( training regime.


Things I Wish I’d Said: “At the store there was a big X on the floor by the register for me to stand on. I’ve seen too many Road Runner cartoons to fall for that one.” — anonymous.


A Lott Of Rumors: Speculation is rife by many folks hereabouts that David Lott, a pleasant gentleman who served as acting Fernandina Beach City Manager prior to the City Commission hiring Joe Garrity around 2012, may be in line for the open slot of assistant city manager job, a post that pays $110,000 or more plus buckets of benefits.

When Garrity, instead of Mr. Lott, got the nod for the city manager job some eight or nine years ago, Lott hightailed it to Atlanta where he’s been ever since doing something or other for the Federal Reserve Bank there. He’s about to retire. He responds frequently on this blog, the two online news outlets (Observer and Independent) and in the print News Leader. His comments are always polite, calm, well composed, and favorable toward the city. He’s probably an able administrator for a position the city doesn’t need to fill. Even though he’s a capable and fine fellow, the last thing this bloated city administration needs are more bureaucrats filling unnecessary positions.


Example Of A Caring Politician: Governor Ron DeSantis is giving many Florida workers a financial break, particularly those who work in specialized fields ranging from hair braiders and makeup artists to nail technicians and barbers. In light of the financial damage done by the Covid19 lockdown, Gov. DeSantis’s elimination of many licensing requirements is timely and well deserved.

The Wall Street Journal’s Opinion Page (“Florida’s Licensing Breakthrough”) gave the governor a shoutout for doing so last Friday saying: “The craft and professional guilds that push licensing requirements often claim they are protecting the public. But typically, they are protecting themselves from competition. How was Florida protecting people by requiring licenses for boxing announcers and boxing timekeepers?” Thanks to Governor DeSantis signing the Occupational Freedom and Opportunity Act they’re gone as are many more such archaic requirements. It’s the largest licensing deregulation in Florida’s history.


A Suspiciously Quiet Media: Bernell Trammell, a black 60-year-old Donald Trump supporter was shot and killed in Milwaukee Thursday afternoon (July 23) during a drive-by shooting in front of his business where he was known for displaying signs reading “Vote Trump 2020”. You won’t find that story on CNN, MSNBC, the NY Times, Washington Post, etc. because they ignored it. It didn’t fit their narrative. Milwaukee local writer Adebisi Agoro said: “Mr. Trammell didn’t have internet, he didn’t have a phone, he didn’t have a dime to his name, but he got his message out.”

As riots and killings in Portland, Minneapolis, New York, Chicago, Atlanta, etc. have shown the left is violent and unhinged, and acting on their mental instability. They’re killing people with whom they disagree, or think are engaging in activities they find disagreeable. That’s terrorism. And the media wonders why their trust numbers are in the toilet.

How disgustingly dishonest are they? ABC News tried to pass a riot in Oakland off as a peaceful protest gone intense. What? The news outlet said this on its social media account: “…. protesters in California set fire to a courthouse, damaged a police station and assaulted officers after a peaceful demonstration intensified.”

Any pretense of peaceful protests is out the window. Deaths, serious injuries, arson, public and private property damage, and economic dislocation are the objectives of these domestic terrorists. And it’s all condoned and encouraged by the Democrat party. Have you heard Biden, Sanders, AOC, Pelosi, Schumer, etc. tell them to knock it off or condemn those committing violent acts? Me either. Just the opposite.


Another Thing I Wish I’d Said: “Ontario has banned groups of more than five. So, if you’re a family of six, you’re all about to find out who’s the least favorite.” – anonymous.


The Washington Redfaces: The Washington Redskins football team hasn’t appeared in a Super Bowl since 1991 apparently because it’s been attempting to do all its scoring off the field. The newly named “Washington Football Team” has been hit with lawsuits from 15 different women claiming they were sexually harassed by men working for the organization, knocking the proposed name change issue off the front pages. This all falls under the “who cares” department for me, a dedicated ‘skins fan since George Allen took them to their first Super Bowl in 1972. But I’m done with this crap, including the kneeling, disrespect, name changes and other cancel culture nonsense flooding across professional sports. It’s all major league BS to me.


They Do It For The Kids: The L.A. Teachers Union has announced that its members will not return to the classroom until the government passes Medicare for All; defunds the police; bans charter schools; and forks over $116 billion. Along with Black Lives Matter and Antifa, teachers unions are among the most vile, disgusting, and destructive organizations in the country.


Speaking Of Despicable People: It’s been established that James Comey and his FBI flunkies  already knew that Christopher Steele’s dossier was a total fabrication and yet they leaked it to the media and then used the press coverage as an excuse to obtain FISA warrants so they could go after John Kelly, Roger Stone, Carter Page and George Papadopoulos, doing everything in its considerable power to destroy their lives, all because they had committed the ultimate crime of trying to help Donald Trump get elected.

In the meantime, they never went after Jane Fonda for a blatant act of treason or George Soros for decades of financing seditious acts and subsidizing violence.


Drinking, Dining & Dancing: Not only can you now select from one of their more than 200 different beers, but you can also order a warm pressed sandwich or hot dog at PJD’s Beer & Wine Garden at 12 South 2nd Street downtown. The perpetually pajama-clad Mr. Voorhees and his pretty blonde fiancé, Zan Maddox, obtained a food license and reopened this cozy neighborhood joint this past Tuesday, serving a variety of pressed panini sandwiches and a $5 quarter pound hot dog that comes with a choice of mustard, ketchup, mayonnaise, or sweet relish. For an extra 50 cents you can have it served with chili or sauerkraut. The PJD’s panini is a sandwich made with Italian bread and served warm by being pressed in a special grill. During a recent soft opening, the $9 Reuben with Swiss cheese, sauerkraut, and Thousand Island dressing proved the most popular and it has been the number one seller since opening day. A turkey and cheese, and ham and cheese both sell for $7 while a tasty pizza panini with mozzarella cheese and Marinara sauce goes for $6. The hog dog and all sandwiches come with a bag of chips. The food’s fine (anything with sauerkraut is good) the beer’s cold, and the atmosphere is even better.


Candie L Cook - 01. Aug, 2020 -

The tendency for human beings to minimize the suffering of others in order to pass off their own agenda as righteous is always alarming. In this case it’s borderline dangerous. Be sure that your anecdotes of what this virus is like to contract are absolute nonsense. Your disregard for the health and well being of our community over what will amount to $20 out of your pocket is upsetting but in no way surprising. I am disappointed in anyone who would agree with anything here you have stated.

Larry - 01. Aug, 2020 -

Another millage increase to fund essential infrastructure workers is shoild not be true and I believe misdirection for agendas some stated In this blog. Misappropriation of funds is always the reason for unreasonable tax increases Just like the rest of the city the commission should have reworked the budget as needed to accomplish essential business during this time. We know tourism down but the residents should not have to shoulder this again after last year’s large increase. My opinion we need to have people who can control cost without continuing to spend on projects that have no return and only maintenance costs increases in the future.

Will T. - 31. Jul, 2020 -

Thanks Dave !!

Suzan McGovern - 31. Jul, 2020 -

Hello from NYC. Yes COVID is a horror that is to be taken seriously. If taken seriously by all, however, the damages can be mitigated. I saw it with my own eyes. We went from Hell to OK this is tolerable. Please wash your hands, use hand sanitizer, social distance and wear a face mask if going into store or confined space w others not in yr everyday immediate circle. Looking for to relocating to Port Orange very soon. GOD be with us all ????

Dave Lott - 31. Jul, 2020 -

David, Let me unequivocally state that I have ABSOLUTELY NO interest in the Assistant City Manager position as supposedly has been rumored. I have no idea where that rumor started. As you note, I am happily employed at the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta and have no plans to retire from my position there until the end of 2021 or early 2022.
Debbie and I were blessed to live in Fernandina Beach for 13 years before my position with the Federal Reserve forced a relocation to the Atlanta area. FB holds a special place in our heart for a number of reasons and we visit as often as possible and try to stay in contact with our many friends. During out time there I was active in a number of city-related groups and committees and was privileged to serve as the Interim City Manager between the terms of Mike Czymbor and Joe Gerrity. My passion for the riverfront park has not diminished one bit although I have come to accept the reality it is probably a long time off. My commentary from time to time on articles in the News-Leader, Fernandina Observer, Facebook groups and messages to the City Manager and Commissioners are simply an indication of my passion for the wellness of the City of Fernandina Beach. I try to be objective in that commentary more often supporting city staff than criticizing. As mentioned earlier, I had the fortune to work with a great group of employees during my time there and I don’t think you will find a group that has more pride in their work and their City. If they don’t, they don’t stay around long.
Just wanted to set the record straight.

Tom Yankus - 31. Jul, 2020 -

I encourage all to read Steve Nicklas’ “Taxes Still Too High” in today (Fridays) News/Leader.

Vito - 31. Jul, 2020 -

I also had the virus, I took 2 tests and both were positive.

It was like a very mild cold and took about 9 days to shake. I followed all quarantine procedures.

I’m 61 in very good health, I’m going to get the anti body test next week.

Funny thing is I do believe I was counted twice in the Public Health records.

I’ll check out PJD’s I dropped a few pounds over the 9 days due to lack of appetite, a hotdog with mustard and relish sounds pretty good right now.

Coleman Langshaw - 31. Jul, 2020 -

In response to the comment “taxation is confiscation”: how do you suggest paying first responders, military personnel, teachers, etc.? Bake sales or raffle tickets? And how do you plan to drive anywhere on tax-funded roads? Dirt paths through private property? “Taxation is confiscation” is the most ludicrous statement I have heard in quite a while, and lately I have heard many.

tony crawford - 31. Jul, 2020 -

David, Thanks once again for helping all of us keep in touch with the actions of the City.
Stay well, stay safe and stay masked. Oh one last thing, I know a few people who got Covid, they would love to tell us about their recovery, but they’re dead. This is a serious virus and we all need to treat it as such. nuf said

Steve Hall - 31. Jul, 2020 -

Hooray for PJD’s! Hotdogs, Reubens, panini sandwiches, and beer [low carb for the beer anyway] will be my go-to diet from now on.

Just demonstrates that despite the taxing, anti-business, and anti-resident nonsense spewing from city government commissioners these days, small business owners like Dave and Zan figure things out and get things done.

William Shaffer - 31. Jul, 2020 -

Taxation is confiscation.

BRUCE SMYK - 31. Jul, 2020 -

Will Common Sense be endorsing any local candidates?

Catherine - 31. Jul, 2020 -

My “common sense” is that it is the principle of the tax increase as much as the additional amount we will have to pay. During this difficult time financially for many people, by rolling back our taxes, shows that our local city commissioners & city manager care what we are all going through & are willing to show they are doing what they can to help support these unusual times. I will not vote for Dr. Ross and hope we will all prepare by listening and learning as much as we can when voting for ALL of the candidates running for office.

bobby carter - 31. Jul, 2020 -

Yes, this tax increase wasn’t so big, but what is concerning is the 50% increase over the past five years?

Benjamin Morrison - 31. Jul, 2020 -

An additional $500,000 in taxes equates to about $40 per resident in the City. That’s about how much it costs to take my wife to lunch. I think this may be getting taken out of context a little bit. But that’s just my two cents.