Guest Column: Legislative disconnect with home

GEORGE GARDNERGuest Column: Legislative disconnect with home

George Gardner
St Augustine Mayor (2002-2006)
City Commissioner (2006-2008)

Bill Proctor’s legislation providing eminent domain and disregard for St. Augustine’s codes continues to sail smoothly through the state legislature and only a strong show of opposition by our City Commission and residents can hope to prevent it.

A legislator assured me, when he made a visit here to appreciate how the legislation will affect us, that Proctor, with his education credentials and pedantic arguments, is highly regarded in Tallahassee.

The legislator is opposed to eminent domain on principal — but had to wonder why the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind should be “the only school district without it.”

Proctor scoffs off the opposition as “a few strident voices,” or “just a neighborhood tiff” and legislators, hearing it from the “representative” of the affected district, accept it.

St Augustine’s City Commission Monday will consider a resolution in opposition, and activist Gina Burrell has checked out bus prices – a 29-passenger bus at $40/passenger or 47-passenger bus at $35/passenger – to bring the opposition to Tallahassee.

Problem is, committee meetings are scheduled only 48 hours in advance – difficult timing to assemble a protest.

Without it, legislators rely on representatives of districts affected by legislation, and we’ve already seen our “representative’s” assurances to them on that score.

When our city, its Heritage Department under new management with a solid business plan, pleaded with Proctor to back off legislation to turn 34 state-owned historic properties over to the management of the University of Florida, he told me he has more faith in the trustees of the university than our City Commission.

He now trusts the appointed trustees of the Florida school – and himself – to move forward with the school’s mission unimpeded by the codes and history of the nation’s oldest city.

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.

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