For the first time since Adjutant General Henry W McMillan was selected to be recognized with the City of St Augustine Order of La Florida award, the public will bear witness to the politics of bestowing civic awards during Monday evening’s City Commission meeting.
Eighteen people have been honored with the award — although under some unexplained theory of mathematics, the City says that, somehow, Frank and Betty Usina only “count as one”.
“When all else fails, manipulate the data,” Historic City News editor Michael Gold told La Florida Award nominee Herbert L. Wiles at coffee Friday morning. It was not clear to Wiles how his neighbor, Commissioner Bill Leary, who nominated Wiles for the City’s highest honor, was going to win the unanimous vote required to convey the recognition to him.
It seems that Vice-Mayor Commissioner Nancy Sikes-Kline beat Leary to City Manager John Regan’s office with her own award nomination after the death of Jerry Kass. She has placed into nomination former St Augustine resident, Dr. Robert B. Hayling, who resides in Ft. Lauderdale.
The City of St Augustine has not one, but, two awards of distinction — each with a clearly articulated set of criteria to recognize citizens for their contributions to our community. In July 2011, Hayling was presented the City’s second-highest honor, the de Aviles Award.
The enabling legislation that created the St Augustine Order of La Florida was enacted on May 12, 1975 under the administration of Mayor Art Runk. The resolution, introduced by St Augustine Commissioner Col. Bob Barclay, provided, from the beginning, that membership in the order should be “limited to eight (8) living persons at any one time”.
Let’s count aloud;
1. John D. Bailey
2. Eugene Lyon
3. Edward G. Mussallem
4. William L. Proctor
5. Michael Gannon
6. Kathleen Deagan
7. Frank Usina
8. Betty Usina
The simple solution is to dismiss both nominations until less than eight living persons survive as holders of membership in the Order. There is no way to predict what this commission will do.
Other options, should the City Manager persist in considering Frank Usina and Betty Usina as “half living persons”, as he has announced he intends to do, include:
1. Commissioner Leary or Vice-Mayor Sikes-Kline withdraws their nomination.
2. Herbie Wiles or Dr Hayling declines to accept their nominations.
3. Sikes-Kline decides to support Leary’s nomination of Wiles.
4. Leary decides to support Sikes-Kline’s nomination of Hayling.
5. Mayor Boles or one of the other commissioners votes out-of-step.
6. The commission decides to dilute the 38-year-old Order by ignoring or expanding existing membership limitations.
In an editorial published in Historic City News on January 13, 2013, we said John Regan needs to be allowed to return to managing issues directly related to the public health, safety, morals, and welfare of the residents of the City of St Augustine — “and not the political whims of a mayor and city commissioners who want more lollipops to hand out for their re-election campaigns”.
If you are planning to attend — the regular St. Augustine City Commission meeting will begin at 5:00 p.m. Monday and will be held in the Alcazar Room; on the first floor of City Hall, located at 75 King Street in St. Augustine. It will be broadcast live on Comcast Government TV (Cable Channel 3) and is streamed over the Internet.