Rhey Palmer: We don’t need another $85,000 to do this.


Tonight Historic City News reporters will be watching as the St Augustine City Commission hears from its elite group of hand-picked representatives; tasked with recommending a course of action to update, or abandon and redo, a “Vision Statement” for the City — but if they want Herb Marlowe to continue as their “professional facilitator”, they have to pay another $85,000.

The current city-wide vision statement and documents were compiled in 1995; prompting City Commissioner Roxanne Horvath to instigate appointment of the “Vision 2014 and Beyond Steering Committee”, which she chairs.

Horvath said that she has consensus from the 15-member committee showing support to continue with Marlowe and to prepare questionnaires for community input. But, at least in this case, Horvath’s use of “consensus” does not mean an opinion that is shared by all the people in the group.

Not everyone on the committee agrees. For example, one-time president of the St. Augustine Uptown Neighborhood Association, committeeman Rhey Palmer, whose views supporting better use of the volunteer members of the various associations of St Augustine’s existing Neighborhood Council, said in a recent meeting, “This is an off the shelf, archaic way of doing this kind of process … We don’t need another $85,000 to do this.”

Each of the five members speaking Monday represent one of the five city commissioners who appointed them. Because of that relationship, all activities of the committee must conform to open meeting requirements contained in Florida’s Sunshine Law.

That requirement is seen as an impediment to accomplishing their goal, according to some on the committee, like Cathy Brown. “(Sunshine Law) constraints to this particular civic process … fly in the face of good planning,” said Brown of the vision process. “I don’t know how we’ll ever get all this done in the sunshine. I can see sitting with (some members) and a couple of beers and coming up with some great stuff.”

Many Historic City News readers have commented, as did one city commissioner, that their understanding was that Commissioner Horvath’s visioning project would cost about $20,000 — and that would be the total cost.

Such an understanding was supported by City Manager John Regan’s references to the city having about $20,000 in the city reserves, earmarked for “visioning”. Now we discover that the $15,000 initially received by Marlowe was only a “down payment” on a substantially larger bill.

The request, presented to the commission by Marlowe, compelled the commission to postpone the decision to approve payment of the $85,000 shortfall until they could hear the comments from all committee members.

If you are planning to attend, the regular St. Augustine City Commission meeting will begin at 5:00 p.m. tonight, Monday June 9th, and will be held in the Alcazar Room; on the first floor of City Hall, located at 75 King Street in St. Augustine.

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