Historic City News reporters watched in surprise as additional speaking time and a free “ParkNow” card was offered during the public comment period of Monday’s City Commission meeting.
The incentives were offered by Mayor Boles in an effort to encourage more positive comments, and the effort mostly succeeded.
Former Mayor George Gardner wrote in today’s issue of The St. Augustine Report that “two of three regular city critics found good things to say, but a third remained critical – and was criticized”.
The “two of three regular critics” who responded with positive comments were Dwight Hines praising the work of 40th ACCORD and school science programs, and B.J. Kalaidi, her voice quivering: “I appreciate the opportunity as a U.S. citizen to speak in public forums and to work for the betterment of our community.”
But Ed Slavin’s comments about “environmental racism” and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s comment in 1964 that St. Augustine “was a lawless city” drew the ire of both the mayor and Vice Mayor Errol Jones.
“I think there are people in this room,” Boles said, “who are more worthy to utter the name of Martin Luther King, Jr., that were here in this community and have been able to enjoy a great renaissance, movement, and be able to present something positive, than to continue to wallow in the past with the vitriolic tone that Mr. Slavin brought to the table, and it embarrasses me as mayor. … I do not consider him your spokesperson in any way.”
The vice mayor added, “I, as one African-American, have been bashed many times, called other names many times, by some of the people who are now talking about my civil rights, and I would appreciate it if they’d treat this African-American with a little more respect than they do, because I treat you that way.”