Letter: Commissioners Choose Starvation

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Dear Editor:

Continuing to borrow from the play book of founder, Don Pedro Menendez de Aviles, the City Commissioners have mercifully decided against the immediate execution of the one hundred thirty-four year-old St. Augustine Transfer Company.

Now they are fleecing the company of five less licenses; “graciously” granting them fifteen.

When Menendez captured the French army at Huguenot Cove, he offered his captives two choices: immediate execution or mercy.

From the Commissioners’ first workshop on May 24th introducing their new carriage code until the recent March 14th workshop, their obvious attempt was to cause the swift and decisive execution of a St. Augustine carriage tradition.

Now they have offered them the kind of “mercy” which St. Augustine’s founder offered to the French. In lieu of having their heads chopped off, they could instead choose to be mercifully thrown into a dungeon where they would be allowed to die of starvation.

The City’s last minute capitulations are combined with “stacked deck” poker moves which unleash an uneven playing field against oncoming competition for this now “captive” company.

The City has increased the total number of licenses able to operate in the city at one time to thirty — contradicting the need for their aggressive actions in the first place. Remember, Assistant Attorney Carlos Mendoza told us if there were more than twenty-five carriages operating at once, it would shut down our city streets and chase off tourism.

Their 180 degree reversal makes light of the perceived impending disaster once the 26th carriage hit the Oldest City streets; predicted by then City Manager, Bill Harriss.

Now they are using the extra licenses to establish new companies which will seriously cut into the profit margin of the oldest continuously operating carriage company in the country.

How can St. Augustine Transfer Co. and Avalon Carriage Company compete with, say, Country Carriages; now the darling of the city, which is given free rent of their current horse barn and promised new stables?

The new companies will be awarded new licenses after September 30th of this year, when the current licenses expire. Should a competitor, with little investment, established in 2004, be given an advantage earned by St. Augustine Transfer, with a $1.7 million investment, founded 127 years before?

The companies subsidized by the city might be able to absorb the two and one-half percent “city tax”, but the City is intent on seizing $5,000 more than St. Augustine Transfer had left over at the end of last year, while allowing for more competition to dilute their potential income, making the outcome of the City’s actions inevitable: death by starvation!

When Mayor Joe Boles was re-elected to his current term, he said he was interested in establishing legacy projects in advance of St. Augustine’s 450 year anniversary which is fast approaching in four years. Mayor Boles, Don Pedro Menendez de Aviles would be proud of your City Commission’s ruthless tactics.

Terry Herbert
Brunswick, GA

Photo credits: © 2011 Historic City News staff photographer

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