Editorial: Hold on to your wallets
To paraphrase an old political joke about the state legislature, the St Augustine City Commission is in session — hold on to your wallets.
Our readers started blowing up our e-mail box this morning; still in shock over last night’s city commission meeting and a last-minute vote by three-out-of-four commissioners to commit over $400,000 in general reserve funds for the long awaited Mumford and Sons concert.
Tell me this, what did you expect was going to happen?
The city staff and a few members of the commission have wanted to put on this concert from the beginning. We’ve never done anything like this before. We’ll probably never do anything like this in the future. This weekend concert is on a financial scale that rivals the 450th Commemoration, and, in my view, has about as much community support.
Unfortunately for those staffers and elected officials who have to make their dream concert a reality, certain big-ticket spending has to come before the commission in a public meeting. It did, last night.
What? You didn’t know they were going to bring something like that up?
I suppose it is unfair and immoral and maybe unethical to slip something that large through on the city taxpayers without reasonable warning; but, notice that I didn’t say it was illegal. They won’t go to jail for what they did, even though a lot of residents apparently think they should.
Historic City News ran plenty of warning on the $50,000 concert “consulting” contract proposed between the city and the county; but, that was included in the agenda backup material we received Friday. That, too, was approved, by the way. According to City Attorney Ron Brown this afternoon, it is moving forward.
If I was going to ask for another commitment of $400,000 for this concert, I suppose that I wouldn’t want the public to be “overly aware” of it, either. They weren’t. The people who wanted it approved were there. It was the end of the meeting and everyone was nodding off after a hard day of making a living, trying to pay their own bills and trusting that their elected public officials were protecting their interests. Again, they weren’t.
So the lesson for Historic City News readers in St Augustine and St Johns County should be that if our city or county commissions are in a regularly called and noticed public session, they are free to take up just about any kind of new business and act on it without further ado. Attend the meetings and raise your voices if you are concerned about this kind of abusive local government — and, on Election Day, start a revolution in the voting booth.